Nepal is the 49th largest country by population in the South Asian Continent. Nepal officially became a federal democratic republic in 2015, through the promulgation of its constitution after years of protests and debates. It took Nepal 65 years in making their constitution. It came into effect on September 20, 2015 by replacing the Interim Constitution of 2007.
The Constitution of Nepal is divided into 35 parts, 308 Articles and 9 Schedules. It was drafted by the Second Constituent Assembly which was elected in 2013 following the failure of the First Constituent Assembly which was elected in 2008 to deliver the constitution in 2012. The new constitution embraces the principles of secularism, republicanism, federalism and inclusiveness. The Interim Constitution of 2007 ended the monarchy that existed making Nepal a republic; but the constitution of 2015 finally ended all the chances of a monarchical revival.
Nepal went through a history of constitutional development due to a constant rift between monarchy and constitutional democracy. In a period of sixty years, Nepal has experienced a total of 6 constitutions and it is important to note that monarchy prevailed in Nepal for the longest of time. But still this country inculcated democratic values firstly, with an armed revolution in 1951 against the autocratic Rana regime, and subsequently when King Tribhuvan announced the formation of an interim government and constitution; to provide a legal framework until a constituent assembly was elected for the promulgation of a new constitution.
Due to the death of King Tribhuvan, the first attempt to make a constitution failed. Later, in 1959, King Mahendra had promulgated a constitution with a special provision that the king will have supreme power over the executive in times of emergency by suspending either or both the houses of parliament and the constitutional provisions.
Consequently next year, King Mahendra invoked the same emergency provision and suspended the Government of B.P. Koirala, imprisoned him for 8 years and also suspended the constitution. Moreover, in 1962, a new constitution was announced by King Mahendra which brought a new panchayat system in Nepal. His aim of establishing such a constitution was to bring a high powered monarchy which would ban the powers of political parties and also curtail the freedom of people.
Finally after 30 years of the autocratic rule, a pro-democracy, Jan Andolan was launched by Nepali Congress and United Left Front (ULF) jointly for the establishing democracy and multiparty system. A new constitution was established by King Bipendra in 1990 establishing Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom with disequilibrium in power, stipulating freedom of speech, multi party system and judicial independence.
But this constitution unfortunately lacked to protect the rights of the minorities. Many parliamentary and local elections were held under the provisions of this constitution but in 2001, CPN-M, a communist party of Nepal assassinated King Bipendra and launched a war against the majority dominated and highly centralized government. They crowned his brother, Gyanendra as their king for ending the violent rebellion and handling the consequences of the failure that the earlier government in 2005 had resulted in.
However, in November 2005 with the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), they launched a peaceful mass movement (Jan Andolan-II) to end the monarchy and establish an absolute democracy in Nepal which finally forced King Gyanendra to surrender his powers and re-establish the parliament.
All the constitutions that Nepal instituted had failed and finally a Constituent Assembly CA-I having a participatory approach was promulgated on 15 January, 2007 to produce a constitution. They held its election in April, 2008 and a total of 601 members were elected. This constitution was amended twice for including federalism and providing minority rights of representation to the Madhesh province. It resulted in transforming from a monarchy to a republic, a non- inclusive state to an inclusive democracy and finally ending the civil conflict which resulted in a peaceful political system within Nepal.
It was the first constitution which was proclaimed by the Nepali people. It is noteworthy that this constitution provided well representation of all sections of the society and fought to end injustice against women as well. But it had an issue of a mixed system of government i.e. president as the head of the state and prime minister as head of the government, bicameral legislature, federal commission for demarcation of states and a constitutional court to handle federalism related disputes.
Due to several other disputes, after 2 years, CA-I was dissolved without promulgating a constitution. Furthermore, in March 2013, a second Constitutional Assembly (CA-II) was formed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi and on 24th November 2013, four major parties had finalized ‘four point deal’ to ensure the establishment of the constitution within a time span of one year.
A draft constitution was presented on June 30, 2015 but was rejected by the Madhesh province based party and the provision related to citizenship wherein the father should be a Nepali for natural citizenship caused great conflict in the establishment of the Constitution of Nepal. Finally, the draft constitution was amended on 16th September, 2015 and also a seventh province, Karnali was added to the province model and the constitutional bill got assent of the President Ram Baran Yadav and on 20th September, 2015 and then Nepal finally promulgated and celebrated its new constitution.
Most of the provisions of the constitution are carried forward from the previous six constitutions. Despite the successful promulgation of the constitution, it lacks in providing fundamental right of abolition of gender discrimination and citizenship provisions that stimulates patriarchal stances. Nepal’s territorial rearrangement and the federal structure are still not free from bias. Although this constitution has resulted in participation of the political parties, and has also led to development of pro-democratic values in people. The sovereignty adopted in Nepal is an attempt of creating a long lasting constitution of a federal, democratic, republic and secular nation.
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