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Constitution

The sovereignty lies in the hands of the people, and the Constitution has been drafted with the greatest possible participation of the masses.
PTI | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2006 06:23 PM IST

The Constitution of 1990 - the country's fifth (respectively fourth) since 1948 which is the legal base of Nepal's current political system - was drafted by representatives of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Left parties that had jointly organised the people's movement of early 1990.

These people tried to lay the foundations for a democratic system, but they, at the same time, avoided radical changes. This resulted in a number of compromises with the conservative forces.

One of the striking features of the Constitution's preamble is the special emphasis on public will. The sovereignty lies in the hands of the people, and the Constitution has been drafted with the greatest possible participation of the masses.

Adult franchise, a parliamentary system of government, constitutional monarchy and the system of multiparty democracy are emphasised as its cornerstones.

The rule of law shall be a living reality on the basis of freedom and equality for all Nepali citizens, and it shall be guaranteed by an independent and competent system of justice.

An important change was: from a party-less to a multiparty system. Another important change concerned the monarchy. King Birendra became a constitutional monarch who in almost all actions depends upon the prior recommendations of the democratically elected government.

One of the constitutional features most restricting for social development has been the concession towards conservative forces in the definition of the kingdom (adhirajya) in Article 4.

New are the terms multiethnic, multilingual and democratic. But the makers of the Constitution rejected the idea of a secular state which had been demanded by Leftist parties and by many non-Hindu groups.

This concession to the economically, socially and politically dominating high caste Hindu population is mentioned in the preliminary part of the Constitution above all otherwise excellently defined fundamental rights.

This means that not only the religion, but also Hindu social order, Hindu values, Hindu ways of thinking and living, and Hindu politics with all their effects are binding for state and society.

The current executive and legislative system is very similar to that of western democracies. The king is sharing power only formally.

The legislative consists of a bi-cameral Parliament, the House of Representatives (Pratinidhi Sabha) with 205 members directly elected by the people and the National Assembly (Rastriya Sabha) with 60 members.

The king is required to appoint the leader of the strongest party in the House of Representatives as Prime Minister.

The other ministers are to be appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Thus constituted Council of Ministers is responsible to the House of Representatives.

In practice, the politicians have not been able to implement many aspects of the Constitution. Even fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution like that of equality of all citizens have not even legally been realised after more than twelve years.

Corruption and selfishness of the politicians and traditional ways of thinking must be regarded as the main reasons for such shortcomings.

The poor state of affairs has been reflected by the instability of governments. It opens rooms for the development of radical forces like that of the Maoists who reject the current Constitution and fight a violent so-called "people's war" that has cost the life of more than 8.000 people since February 1996.

The most dramatic violation of the Constitution appeared on October 4, 2002, when King Gyanendra dismissed the elected Prime Minister and grabbed executive power.

This happened at a time when the House of Representatives and the elected local bodies had already been dissolved. In May 2003, the National Assembly became defunct as well, since by-elections could not take place because of the dissolved Lower House.

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