New bill aims to make lawmaking more consultativeGovernment move comes amid strong protests that forced revisions to some contested pieces of legislation.
The Cabinet in the first week of August approved the School Education Bill to be registered in Parliament. The bill met with severe criticism particularly from the private sector as it envisioned turning private schools into trusts within five years.
In the face of strong opposition from the schools, the government decided not to send the bill to Parliament. It was then revised, specifically removing the provision that had drawn objections from the private sector, and was registered in Parliament in September. While the bill pleased private school operators, teachers and local governments objected to it.
The teachers descended on Kathmandu and staged demonstrations for days by closing schools. Although a section of the agitating teachers have returned to work after inking an agreement with the government, those under the relief quota have continued their street protest.
“This situation could have been avoided if the bill was drafted after proper consultation with the concerned stakeholders, including teachers,” Bidya Nath Koirala, professor at the Tribhuvan University, who also is an educationist, told the Post.
Similarly, the Cabinet had approved the Federal Civil Service Bill just before Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal embarked on his international trip. However, it has yet to be introduced in Parliament owing to reservations from civil servants. “There are some issues to be sorted out. We are waiting for the prime minister’s return,” Minister for Communications and Information Technology Rekha Sharma, who is also the government’s spokesperson, told the Post.
Experts attribute the situation to lack of transparency in the legislative process.
The lawmaking process involves three phases—pre-legislative, legislative and post-legislative—that involve policy identification and bill drafting, registration and endorsement from Parliament, and implementation of the legislation. In Nepal, the practice of conducting thorough consultations with stakeholders is sorely lacking.
“Our lawmaking process is problematic right from the drafting stage. This is why one after another bills have met with criticism and the government has been compelled to revise them even before registering them in Parliament,” Khim Lal Devkota, a member of the upper house and an expert on federalism, told the Post.
Devkota, who has been advocating a consultative lawmaking process, last year published a research-based report, which says Nepal doesn’t follow the right process while drafting laws.
Devkota, who published a research article titled “Law-Making Processes in Federal Nepal” in the journal of International Center for Public Policy under Andrew Young School of Policy Studies in US-based Georgia State University last year has said no one—from the government that drafts bills to the parliamentarians—is taking an initiative to make the lawmaking process consultative. “There is also no law that guides the lawmaking process in Nepal,” reads the article.
Devkota, along with other lawmakers, had been demanding a law to guide the lawmaking process. As a result the government on Sunday registered a bill in Parliament with the goal to make the lawmaking process consultative.
As per the bill, the respective ministries must, by June 15 every year, list out the laws it needs and present the concept to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Federal Affairs. Once the law ministry accepts the concept, the respective ministries must publicise the concept through their websites to inform the public about what kind of laws are being drafted.
“Stakeholders who are directly affected by the bill and experts from the respective fields must be consulted before the bill is finalised,” reads the bill that is waiting to be presented in Parliament. It says that during the consultation process it must be made clear why the bill is being drafted, how it is linked to fundamental rights, how it can help in governance, and its economic and financial implications.
Devkota says registering the bill is a welcome step. “Once the bill becomes law, it will be mandatory for the government to hold proper consultations with stakeholders. If not, it can be challenged in court,” he said.