KRISHNA MAN PRADHAN, executive director of Nepal Law Society (NLS), is a well known figure in legal circle. Having worked for a long period of time in the constitution making process, Pradhan had several things to share when he spoke to New Spotlight. Excerpts:
What role is Nepal Law Society playing in the process of constitution making?
With an objective to support the Constituent Assembly, we are working on a model constitution. We have hired experts in various stages of the drafting process. Under the leadership of some eight constitutional experts, we have already arrived at the final version of the model constitution which will be released soon.
On what basis have your experts drafted the model constitution?
The basis of our model constitution is the guidelines given by the 11 thematic committee reports. This draft will support the Constituent Assembly and its Constitutional Committee. Since all the reports of 11 thematic committees are like a bundle of notes of dissents, our experts have drafted the model constitution showing how those differences can be minimized. Our draft includes the opinions of experts in minimizing differences. We hope our draft will help the constitutional committee of CA and CA in their work.
How do you look at the present process of constitution writing?
Nepal is in a historic stage of writing its constitution through the CA. The new constitution will be written by the people and for the people. This is a very good methodology. Despite so many good things about the process, the constitution is also a technical document. Thus, it requires the support of technical experts.
Didn’t you find it difficult to sort out contentious issues included in thematic committee reports?
The reports of 11 thematic committees include not only materials for constitution drafting but also include suggestions, and elements for guidelines, acts and regulations, which will be required in the future. With the support from CA Secretariat, International IDEA and Nepal Law Society separated the materials to be included in the constitution and those that can be included in future acts and rules. Our priority is now to pick up elements required for drafting the constitution. We hope our efforts will help the CA in preparing the final draft of the constitution.
There are a number of model constitutions that have come out. How is your model constitution different?
A number of model constitutions have been published by various organizations. However, they are not based on CA’s thematic committee reports. Those model constitutions were drafted by women, youths, janjatis and others. Our constitution is exclusively based on CA thematic committee reports. The model constitution written by Nepal Law Society and International IDEA could be the model constitution for CA. This model constitution was drafted with the active involvement of CA members, constitutional experts, political party leaders and other key stakeholders. I am confident that this will help CA in the process of drafting its new constitution.
You have recently set up the Constitution Information Centers in five regions. Why?
Nepal Law Society and International IDEA have established Constitution Information Centers in five districts to disseminate and update information regarding the activities and role played by the CA among the grass root people. With the support from Constituent Assembly Secretariat, these centers are now up and running in Biratnagar, Bharatpur, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Dhangadi.
Why do we need such centers?
Our aim is to minimize the negative views on the CA. Although the CA has completed many important works in the last two and a half years, everyone blames CA for doing nothing. For instance, 11 thematic committees have already presented their drafts to the CA which is making all out efforts to prepare the final draft of the constitution. However, due to lack of information at the grass root level, the level of mistrust and distrust has increased.
How will it support the constitution making process?
Before the first draft of the constitution is prepared, these centers will be informing the general public about the key issues being discussed. They will help create a critical mass of informed general public, who will be better poised to give their opinions and feedbacks when the CA goes to them with the first draft. The Centers will also help the committee on Civil Relations in the dissemination of information. The aim of the Committee is to contribute towards better communication on CA related issues. Our centers will assist in implementation of the objective of the Committee on Civic Relations and Committee on Collection and Coordination of Public Opinions.
What materials do these centers share?
The Centers will share materials that enhance public faith in the CA by highlighting the contributions made by CA members towards the constitution making process. We are also sharing the basic features of the 11 thematic committees’ concept papers, preliminary drafts, project commentary notes and the first draft constitution. The centers will also share updated information by the CA with the district level stakeholders. The centers will also disseminate major issues raised by the political parties and CA members. Along with this, the centers will also receive and forward any feedback about constitutional issues from the stakeholders. We will prepare and educate the district level stakeholders so that they can provide useful feedback on the draft constitution.
What documents, for example, are there in the centers?
The centers provide the materials published by the Constituent Assembly Secretariat, Nepal Law Society, International IDEA, UNDP, civil society members and other institutions. The centers are also operating a library that have CA concept papers and other related documents.
Do you plan any other activities?
The centers will organize orientation programs from time to time. Along with holding the information sharing programs, the centers will also organize discussion programs in schools, colleges, and among communities to share information on CA and constitution making process.
What is expected to be the most important task for the centers?
One of the important tasks of our centers will be to disseminate the first draft of the constitution to the public. Before the publication of the first draft of the constitution in the gazette, the centers will work with the Committee on Civic Relations to disseminate information and educate general public. The centers will act as a two-way-bridge – by helping disseminate the CA related information to the public and bringing back the public feedback to the CA. Those who enter the centers need to register their names. We will monitor their feedback at the district and local levels.
What are the regular programs of the centers?
The centers are organizing information sharing programs every Friday at the district level by inviting district level stakeholders. The participation of the people is growing in our program. Nepal Law Society is working as a bridge between the Constituent Assembly and the people. Norwegian government is supporting us and other donor countries are also showing interest to support the program. Our aim is to disseminate the information of CA throughout the country up to the village development committee level.
Have you noticed any change in people’s perception of CA and its members?
Yes. We have seen a lot of changes. The perception about the CA and CA members is changing. Our program has helped to enhance the image of CA. Through interaction programs at the village and district levels, we are disseminating the information and activities of CA and CA members. Despite the limitations of CA members, they have been doing quite a lot of hard work but the people are often ignorant about it. We share information with local groups on what CA members and CA have been doing in constitution making process.
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