If President can’t read out policies, Vice President should do it, say expertsPresident Paudel is fit and will do the job himself, aide claims.
Tika R Pradhan
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led coalition government is preparing to unveil its policy and programme for the new fiscal year 2023-24 on Friday.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal briefed Speaker Devraj Ghimire on the government’s plan to present its policy and programme and asked him to prepare the Parliament’s schedule accordingly.
Traditionally, the President reads out the policy and programme in a joint session of Parliament. But officials said due to his health issues President Ramchandra Paudel may read out a small portion of the document and the rest will be recited by the prime minister or someone else.
“The President will read out as much of the policy and programme document as he can, and will ask someone else to complete the rest,” said Hitraj Pande, chief whip of the CPN (Maoist Centre). “However, nothing has been decided yet as the President is undergoing medical treatment.”
Since there is no legal or constitutional provision for the President to ask either the Prime Minister or the Speaker to complete reciting the government’s policy and programme, some leaders and legal experts have suggested the government should allow the Vice President to do the job.
Article 67(2) of the constitution states that the functions to be performed by the President shall be performed by the Vice President in the absence of the President.
Therefore, some leaders have asked the government not to take any unconstitutional steps by asking the executive prime minister to read out the policy and programme document.
UML Secretary Bishnu Rimal has also asked the government to assign the job to the Vice President in line with the constitution.
“Let’s not breach the constitution,” said Rimal in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “If the news is true, let's simply say–don’t do that, please. The Vice President is healthy. Let’s officially assign him the job.”
Rimal, however, said the Speaker can do the job if both President and Vice-President are not available.
Ghimire was nominated Speaker by the CPN-UML.
Adding to the confusion, the President’s Office has claimed that President Paudel was fit enough to present the policy and programme document in Parliament.
“President Paudel is fit and can read out the policy and programme,” said Kiran Pokharel, press advisor to the President.
The President returned home after undergoing treatment at the New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in India for 11 days. He was airlifted to New Delhi on April 19 after he complained of chest-related illness.
CPN-UML vice-chair and deputy leader Subas Chandra Nembang, who chaired both the Constituent Assemblies, said there is no practice of the President delegating his authority to the prime minister or anyone else.
“There is no provision for the President to request anyone to do the work on his behalf,” said Nembang. “The easiest way would be to officially ask the Vice-president to do the job.”
Some constitutional experts also claimed that the President assigning the prime minister or others to read out the document on his behalf could raise questions about the legitimacy of the action, as there is no such provision in the constitution or any law.
“The institutions of the executive and the President are two different things, therefore the President cannot delegate his authority to the prime minister,” said senior advocate Chandra Kanta Gyawali, a constitutional expert. “The constitution has designated the Vice-president specifically for such situations to ensure the legitimacy of the responsibilities they fulfil.”
Gyawali said the Speaker can read out the document only if both the President and Vice-President are absent.