Report on the Conference by Convenor: The Conference on the Constitution of Nepal (13 August 2018)

Report on the Conference by Convenor Dr. Bipin Adhikari
13 August 2018

The Conference on the Constitution of Nepal
11-13 August 2018
Hotel Soaltee, Tahachal, Kathmandu

Kathmandu University School of Law & the South Asia Trust

Rt Hon'ble Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli
Hon'ble Ministers / Former Ministers
Members of Parliament
Prof Dr Ram Kantha Makaju Shrestha, VC, Kathmandu University
Prof Suresh Raj Sharma, Founding Vice Chancellor, Kathmandu University
Senior Advocate Daman Nath Dhungana, Chairperson, KU Trusteeship Council
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this concluding session of the three day international conference on the new Constitution of Nepal. The Conference was a productive and satisfying event in terms of the quality of discussions and the diversity of the experts, practitioners and stakeholders who participated. I am glad to make this quick report on behalf of The Southasia Trust and the Kathmandu University School of Law (KUSL).

The opening plenary of this Conference on the evening of 11 August was addressed by President Rt. Hon. Bidya Devi Bhandari with addresses also by Subhas C Nembang, Chair of CA I & II and the Bangladesh jurist Kamal Hossain, among others.

Over the last two-and-half days, besides the opening session and this closing session, we held three plenaries and nine panel discussion under broad themes from constitutionalism, rule of law, economy to inclusion and implementation. There were three ‘focus sessions’ devoted to topics that we did not want to miss out under the broad themes – on motherhood, citizenship and the Constitution, on the place of the marginalised under the Constitution, and a look back at the Constitution of 1990.

Over the period of the Conference, approximately 7 dozen panelists and commentators shared their opinions and interacted among 220 participants. Twenty-five of the panelists and commentators were international experts, and many others expressed their point of view from the floor.

The Constitution was discussed against the background of Nepal's constitutional and legal history, and the workings of the two constituent assemblies were addressed in detail. Issues such as rule of law and checks and balances, fundamental rights, federal structures, electoral system and inclusiveness, economic constitutionalism, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, and other matters were discussed in relation to the new Constitution.

Efforts were made to look at the new Constitution against the perspective of comparative constitutionalism, keeping in view the experience of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, in particular, as well as the United States and the countries of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Some other international contexts were also taken into account. There was significant discussion on the implementation of Constitution, including most importantly the need for required laws and also the calls for amendment. By and large, the Constitution was singled out for its norms, values, institutions and procedures, while worries were expressed about implementation pathways. Several participants pointed out the need for reforming the text of the Constitution through amendments, to enhance ownership across the country and communities.

On the whole, the discussion in the Conference, happening for the first time nearly three years after promulgation, was able to bring forth ideas which will serve as profound commentary on the text. We have had a team of rapporteurs at work, and over the next two months will be processing all the papers, commentaries, opinions and concerns expressed in order to come out with a Conference Report. Thereafter, we plan to hold countrywide discussions even as our editorial team works on a book-lengths publications in Nepali and English.

For this closing session, with your permission, I would summarise some key points that came up during discussion:

• The experts and participants emphasised consistent and rigorous implementation of the Constitution. Those provisions that provide for support of the weaker sections of society must be given priority. The most deprived and marginalised communities must find the Constitution to their advantage, and this requires efficient writing and implementation of laws.

• The results of the three tier elections held in 2017 under the new Constitution must be reviewed to make sure that the electoral system protects the concerns of the people who have been affected in the matter of representation. Initiatives should be taken to reform the laws, where necessary.

• The laws regarding political parties and proportional representation should be reviewed in the best interest of the indigenous people and other marginalized groups.

• The federalisation initiative must get a boost to make it faster and effective, as the work thus far has been unsatisfactory. The delays have been due to the enormity of the task ahead and our capacity to work out necessary laws and procedures, but there is no way out but to get on with the task. The government should continue to work with the provinces and local governments to complete the unfinished task, and urgently complete the transition.

• The passage of major legislation to implement the commitment of the state to materialise fundamental rights is important. For example, the women's rights under the Constitution,as well as the rights of sexual minorities, need appropriate legislation for their implementation.

• More model laws are necessary as a reference for the use by local and provincial governments. The Federal Government should make necessary arrangements to help develop necessary knowledge and skills.

• It is urgent to immediately fulfill the staffing requirements of local and provincial governments, and effective transfer of power is required.

• The government should do everything possible to reform the laws regarding the Judicial Council and Constitutional Council, and ensure quality in recruitment, transfer, disciplinary action and dismissal of judges. The law to regulate parliamentary hearing should also be enacted to make sure that legal standards are met with in this regard.

As promised, we the organisers of the Conference on the Constitution of Nepal, will be coming out with detailed analysis and recommendations within a couple of months. This has been an attempt to provide a summary of the discussions and conclusions of the Confernece. We will be submitting our forthcoming reports to the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister as well as the participants and stakeholders in due course.

I thank you for listening.

Bipin Adhikari
Convenor of the Conference