Janakpur has historically been worshipped as an important pilgrimage site for all Hindus. The Extended Janakpur Region Development Committee was formed in 2049BS with the objective of developing Janakapur region’s religious, historical, and archeologically important areas as well as contribute to the social, economic and cultural development infrastructure in a planned manner. It was made active as an organized body by the Extended Janakpur Region Development Council Act 2055. The Integrated Janakpur Region Development Council Act was implemented from 2055/03/29 and the first amendment was proposed in 2067 BS. This proposed bill has attempted to amend the Preamble of the Act, its executive structure and create an administrative council as well as the region of extended Janakpur.
It is essential to amend the Act keeping in mind the organizational role and its effectiveness over the last 13 years. The Act had established an autonomous, answerable and organized body to ensure that the religious, ancient, spiritual and cultural identity be protected, promoted and conserved for which the security of the shrines, temples, ponds and other areas starting from Janakpur city to Madhyamiki (Panchakosh) should also be protected and promoted while developing the social, economic and cultural development infrastructure in a planned manner to make it a organized pilgrimage and tourist area. However the body has not been able to work effectively for the development of the Madhyamik (Panchakoshi) area as per the aim of the Act. What is clear to all is that due to the lack of clarity regarding the budget and division of administrative authority the organization has not been able to work as per the objective of the Act. Realizing this, the Nepal Government has proposed necessary amendments in the Bill.
There are ten major amendments proposed in the Bill: amendment in the preamble of the Act, and in Articles (3), (6), (7), (8), (13), (16), (17), and (24).
Notes in the proposed amendments}
a. Amendment in the preamble of the Act
The proposed amendment bill has completely amended the preamble of the Act. In the main Act instead of Janakpur and its Madhyamik (Panchakoshi) circuit region integrated Janakpur has been added while extending the Madhyamik (Panchakoshi) envisioned by the Act to include lingual words such as gumba, stupa, chaitya, masjid, majar as per the state’s secular policy which has extended the Janakpur region and the ancient Panchakoshi Madhymik circuit area changing it to now include the entire Dhanusha and Mahottari district establishing it as extended Janakpur region.
b. Section A of the definition section of the main Act has been amended and Section (b) removed while in sub-section (g) the word member secretary has been removed. The amendment in the definition section has also amended the preamble taking the unique vision of the Act outside and extending the region to include all the ancient religiously, historically, and touristically important shrines, temples, ponds, monasteries, stupa, chaitya, masjid, majar and other religious places extending the field of work of the organization and adding further responsibilities to it.
c. In Section (1) of Article (3) of the main Act, as per the definition there is a provision to establish the council by replacing “inside the Madhyamik circuit area” with “inside the extended Janakpur Region”.
d. The aim of the council has been amended in Section 5 ( c ) as per the amendment in the preamble.
e. Article (6) of the main Act has been amended and provisions made for a management council to be established. This amendment has changed the structure of the management council and addressed the problem of minimal attendance in the past meetings of the council by providing for representatives of the ex-officio members making meetings simpler and more practical. In Section (2) the tenure of the Chair as well as nominated members has been kept at an equal four years. At the same time provisions have been added to allow the management council to invite specialists as observers and in section (5) provisions have been made for the director of the organization to be a member of the council and work accordingly.
f. In Article (7) of the main Act a mandatory clause stating “at least once a year” has been added in section (1) which amends the council meetings and decision making process. Further additions have been made in Section (1 a) where a mandatory clause stating that if one fourth of the member of the council submit a written request to the Chair to call a meeting the Chair must call a meeting of the council within 15 days. Likewise the quorum for any meeting has been amended from 50 percent to 33 percent.
g. Regarding the work, responsibilities and authority of the management council c(1) has been added where further authority to protect, promote, and manage the temple lands within the extended Janakpur region in coordination with the Guthi Sansthan . While this proposed amendment increases the authority and working area of the council it also creates possibilities for conflict in the working area of the two bodies [Guthi Sansthan and the Council].
h. Article 13 (e) has been amended and arranged as per the definition.
i. As there are no clear provisions regarding the work, responsibility, and rights of the Chair in the main Act, this has been added in Article 16 as (A) mentioning the work, responsibilities and rights as well as the salary of the Chair, which will be as fixed by the regulation. In the past since 2055BS as the Chair of the Council was neither full time nor had executive authority there had been cases of disputes between the member secretary and the Chair regarding the administration and management of the council affecting the work of the Council in a negative manner. The proposed amendment has provided the Chair with executive authority and to work full time.
The provision mentioning executive director of the council has been changed to just director. The provisions mandating that the Director will work under the Chair’s direction provides for the possibility of selection of an able and creative person through open competition to assist in the councils work.
These suggestions have been prepared based on discussions with the Chair and other members of the organization formed for the development, protection and promotion of integrated Janakpur.
1. The amendment in the preamble has defined Janakpur region and the work as well. However the proposal to include all areas of Dhanusha and Mahottari district in the Madhyamiki (Panchakosh) can only develop if the financial resources of the organization are increased.
2. The making of the council has been made practical. However such organizations must be made more representative than bureaucratic and even the local VDC chair should be represented accordingly.
3. As per the prevalent laws of Nepal the Guthi Sansthan is responsible for the protection and management of the shrines and temples within the area which might lead to conflict between the two agencies in terms of work area.
4. The organization can only work effectively and as per the vision of the Act if it works according to plan and if adequate financial resources and authority is provided. Past experience shows that due to the lack of clarity in the rights of the organizations it has not been able to work effectively.
5. The proposed amendment provides for the region, the rights of the Chair, the Director (from open competition) in the Act itself giving it autonomy and the Chair the full responsibility and accountability through the executive authority provided which raises hopes for future work to be more effective.
During the discussion organized by the Nepal Constitution Foundation on 2068/08/18 various persons had submitted the following written suggestions:
Most participants felt that the preamble must be kept as it is. The Act was initiated to develop extended Janakpur envisioning the Panchakoshi Madhyamik Circuit region. The general opinion was that by integrating all the areas of Dhanusa and Mahottari as integrated Janakpur region the amendment had put the ancient importance of Janakpur and the Madhyamik Panchakoshi region and ended the main objective of the Act. Therefore the Panchakoshi Madhyamik region must be kept as the extended Janakpur region. Some participants also expressed the opinion that the proposed amendment was timely but they also pointed out that while there had inadequate focus in the small region further extending the region did not have significance.
b. Establishment of the management council
The amendment in the management council has instead of making it representative made it more bureaucratic. There were opinions opposing the removal of the CA members (parliamentarians) and the VDC Chair. Looking at the past experience of the meetings of the management council the amendment to allow representatives of members to make it more practical was welcomed.
c. Relation between the Council and the Guthi Sansthan
Most participants were of the opinion that adding Article (8) Section D (1) would lead to conflict between the two agencies. Some were of the opinion that there should be coordination and cooperation between the two agencies. Some were also of the opinion that by giving both agencies the responsibility over the same area might make both inactive and negatively affecting the work of the council.
D. Regarding the patronage of the extended Janakpur Region
Development Council as per the prevalent law of Nepal the Lumbini Development Trust Act 2042, Pashupati Region Development Trust Act 2050 all have patrons in which Article 5 of both Acts state that Prime Minister is the Patron of the Trust, however the proposed amendment bill of the extended Janakpur Region Development Council does not provide for any patronage. Even if it is to bring some uniformity amongst the different development agencies as per the Act, the proposed bill should also provide for patronage from either the head of the state or the head of the government.
The state should attempt to bring some uniformity by taking in the above mentioned suggestions as well as other agencies made as per Nepal’s laws and prepare for legal provisions. It would be best if the above mentioned suggestions are incorporated in the proposed bill and then only presented.
This suggestion paper was prepared by advocate Bijaya Singh for the Nepal Constitution Foundation with inputs from women, Janajati, Dalit, Madhesi, youth, and other related pressure groups. The Foundation is grateful to Mahendra Yadav, Arun Kumar Pajiyar, Munni Kumari Gupta, Kiran Yadav, Juli Mahato, Bidyakishor Raya, Rishi Bhusan Chaudhary, Manchala Jha, Kailash Gurung, Sanumaya Maharjan, Jaya Ghimire, Dr. Binita Kushiyat, Dr. Surya Dangol, Biswanath Prasad Upadhyaya, Om Kumar Dahal, Dik Ghimire, Phurpa Tamang, and Dr. Bipin Adhikari.
This research has been supported by The Asia Foundation. Views and opinion expressed in this report are of the authors and don’t necessarily reflects of the Asia Foundation.