With over 50 bills to endorse, Parliament looks at a busy winter sessionSome crucial bills regarding the functioning of the federal system are currently being studied by different House committees.
As many as 56 bills, some crucial and some controversial, will heat up the winter session of federal parliament when it commences next week.
Once a new Speaker is elected, the House of Representatives will begin deliberations on the bills, including those from the backlog, which will mean a busy winter session, also called the bill session.
Officials at the Parliament Secretariat say that the first meeting of the session will start the process to elect a new Speaker, a post that’s been vacant since Krishna Bahadur Mahara resigned in early October following allegations of attempted rape. If Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe also resigns, the House will have to elect her replacement as well.
Roj Nath Pandey, spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat, said that a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee would finalise the agenda for the first winter session meeting within a few days.
“Apart from the election of the House Speaker, the upcoming session will focus on deliberations and endorsement of new as well as pending bills,” Pandey told the Post.
At least 25 bills, including some crucial ones that are directly related to the functioning of the federal system, from the last session need to be endorsed. Of them, two are at the National Assembly while eight others are being studied by lawmakers.
According to Pandey, 15 bills tabled by the government during the budget session are under consideration at different House committees.
The previous session was prorogued on September 19 without endorsing bills necessary for both the federal and provincial governments to fully implement federalism as envisioned by the constitution.
The Federal Civil Service and Federal Public Service Commission Bill, which are necessary for the provincial governments to hire civil servants, couldn’t get through the House.
According to the constitution, provincial laws, including the Civil Service Act, should be in line with federal Acts. Provincial governments thus cannot draft their own laws unless the federal Act is in place.
Lacking federal laws, the provincial governments have not been able to exercise the authority delegated by the Constitution of Nepal, promulgated more than four years ago.
The last session also failed to endorse amendments to the Citizenship Act, Forest Act, National Human Rights Commission Act, and Media Council and Information Technology Act after some provisions drew criticism from both the public and the political parties, including the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Public protests had even forced the government to withdraw the Guthi Bill, which was at the National Assembly.
The budget session also couldn’t ratify the $630-million “compact programme” designed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent foreign aid agency of the US government, as a section of the ruling party had opposed it. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, in an interview with Kantipur, the Post’s sister paper, had blamed then Speaker Mahara for failing to move the bill forward.
In addition to the backlog, there are 29 bills, including bills on Establishment, Registration and Operation of the Civil Society Organisations, Mass Media, and Public Service Broadcasting, awaiting Cabinet’s approval. The bills, after being cleared by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, need to be approved by the Cabinet before they are registered at the Federal Parliament for endorsement.
“We are working on some other bills as well. The Parliament has enough bills to keep it busy during the winter session,” Dhana Raj Gyanwali, spokesperson for the law ministry, told the Post.
If all the bills under consideration in the Cabinet are approved, Parliament will need at least two months to clear them, even if one bill is endorsed a day.