Nepal's constitution, 3 years later

Bikram Rai

Three years after Nepal’s constitution was promulgated, experts from the region are gathering in Kathmandu for a three-day conference to discuss progress in translating it into better governance, inclusion and due process, as well as the challenges in agreeing to amendments. 

Jointly organised by Kathmandu University School of Law and the South Asia Trust, the Conference on the Constitution of Nepal 2015  will be inaugurated by President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Saturday and will conclude in the presence of Prime Minister K P Oli.

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The gathering will review the strengths and weaknesses of the constitution, especially in institutionalizing federalism and take stock of the three elections last year  to local, provincial and federal assemblies.

“The conference will be important to identify ways for Nepal to advance by following the constitution, and also to clean up contradictions and ambiguities in it,” says Kanak Mani Dixit, a member of the organising committee. “The timing of the conference is crucial to provide insights for an effective, decentralised implementation of the constitution.”

Constitutional experts agree that it is important that the 2015 statute succeeds to ensure the country’s stability. Its failure would reopen wounds of the past related to issues such as federalism and secularism, which could push the country towards chaos.

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Participants of the conference include jurists, constitutionalists, academics, political representatives, analysts, economists, activists from Nepal, South Asia and overseas. Among them are Kamal Hossain, the founding father of the Bangladeshi constitution, who will deliver an opening address.

International figures flying in for the conference include Menaka Guruswamy, Mahendra Pal Singh, Kåre Vollan, Qianfan Zhang, Mara Malagodi, and Sara Hossain, among others.

The conference will have three plenaries and nine panel discussions. Speakers will present papers prepared especially for the conference, with inputs from commentators. Subjects include the economy, fundamental rights, comparative analysis to constitutions of South Asia, constitutional bench, check and balance in governance, historical journey through the two constituent assemblies. Presentations will be compiled into a book after the conference.

Excerpts from the papers

The overview of the relationship between constitutional text and constitutional culture is valuable to explain the reasons why discrimination against Nepali women endures in matters of citizenship, while the rest of the Constitution features a progressive array of women’s rights.

From Constitutionalising Women’s Rights in Nepal,

by Mara Malagodi

The constitution-making of Nepal was also a process to recalibrate the understanding of the state and the nation. The constitutional history of Nepal shows, firstly, the transition from subjects to citizens and secondly, a quest to balance the modern principles of liberty, equality and fraternity with the post-modern paradigms of security, diversity and solidarity.

From Electoral System and Inclusiveness under the Constitution,

by Nicole Töpperwien

The new system has produced a less inclusive Lower House of Parliament than the two Constituent Assemblies of 2008 and 2013. Further, the quota system still works in favour of the ‘creamy layer’ within the broader groups.

From The System of Representation at Three Tiers: Implementation and Challenges

by Kare Vollan

The economic content of the constitution is unnecessarily obfuscating, as a result of compromise across a vast political spectrum. First, the state is declared to be ‘socialism-oriented’, but the definition of socialism is left to the imagination with no derivable implication for the ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

From Economic Soft Spots of Nepal’s Constitution

by Dr. Swarnim Waglé

In order to sustain lasting peace and harmony, Nepal is obliged to honour the social contract and the political natural law, particularly the principle of ethnic equality and local autonomy.

From Social Contract as a Metaconstitution:

The Case of Nepal

by Qianfan Zhang

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Federalism, republicanism and secularism,  Anurag Acharya

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