Nepal constitution drafting committee begins work

Kathmandu, (IANS) After a year-long gap, a committee of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly on Sunday began preparing the preliminary draft of the constitution which, it said, would be promulgated by mid-July, an official said.

The Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly (CA) has been assigned 15 days to prepare the document and the panel said it expected to finish its task by June-end, a lawmaker conversant with the constitution-drafting process said.

Nepal has so far elected two Constituent Assemblies — in 2008 and 2013 — to prepare the so far elusive document. The first CA folded up without any progress on the much-awaited Constitution of the Himalayan nation — and now the second house is engaged in the task.

An interim constitution is guiding the lawmakers at present.

The logjam was cleared on June 8 when the four major political parties of Nepal inked a 16-point agreement to federate the country into eight federal provinces, thus paving the way for the promulgation of the new constitution.

While signing the 16-point agreement, the four major political parties — the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxists-Leninists) [CPN-UML], United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [UCPN-Maoist] and the Terai-based Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik — agreed to finalise the new constitution by mid-July and initiate the process to form a national government thereafter.

However, the parties have yet to iron out differences over interim constitution amendments, incorporating pluralism in the draft and introducing a parliamentary system in the preamble.

Once the Drafting Committee submits its report to CA, it will take at least a week to complete deliberations in the house.

Additional time is required to allow parties and lawmakers to register separate bills if they have reservations about the first draft.

To expedite the process, the committee headed by Nepali Congress General Secretary Krishna Prasad Situala has composed five sub-committees.

The Situala-led main committee has directed the five sub-committees under it to prepare draft proposals in accordance with the recent 16-point agreement reached by the four major political parties.

The sub-committees have been given two days to complete their respective drafts. Each of those would include various components of the constitution such as preamble and definition, fundamental rights, directive principles of state, various constitutional commissions, and structures of judiciary, legislature and executive.

It would also look into issues such as federation of the country, modality of the electoral and members in lower and upper houses.

The committee meeting on Sunday decided to come up with the document by June 17, said lawmaker Ramesh Lekhak.

After the Drafting Committee completes its task, it will hand over the report to the Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee headed by former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai.

Lekhak said the committee would start the constitution-drafting process after it receives the reports of the sub-committees.

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