Although the Constituent Assembly (CA) is no longer there now, some facts and inside stories are interesting to discuss. Of them, speaking in the House is an important and compulsory factor and procedure of the Parliamentary Practice. It can be conceived by other themes that the speeches delivered by the members are income sources of the parliament system. However, it is a very important matter that a query may arise how it is compulsory to speak as a member in the House and whether there is any clear cut legal provision or not.
This topic is referential to CA but because of undertaking the responsibility of Parliamentary affairs by CA here is using the word 'House' in common sense either it be a CA or Parliament. A House is a composition of people's representatives. It means that they have to put the people's notions and views in the House for what they got the mandate from their voters. With this viewpoint, parliamentarians must speak in the Parliament House by moral obligation. However, there is no hard and fast rule whether a parliamentarian should speak or not. It depends on personal interest of a parliamentarian. However, sometimes, there are so many factors to make a parliamentarian speak or not. But, speaking or not speaking in the House or Committee meetings, plays some important role publicly or in the personal political life of a parliamentarian.
During the four years of CA, 122 meetings were convened, except those of the 11 thematic committees. Throughout that period, among the then members, only one member Gopal Thakur had spoken 13 times, which was the highest number. In the second position, 11 members had spoken for 12 times. In the third position, 12 members had spoken for 11 times. Similarly, 93 members had spoken only one time and remaining others had spoken two times to ten times. But 94 members had not spoken at all in that sense. Among the non-speakers, most had spoken in 11 Thematic Committee meetings and or at the CA only at the time of discussion on State Restructuring Commission's Report. But 19 members hadn't spoken anywhere.
Why such large number of parliamentarians didn't speak raises some queries. There are at least 5 factors behind it. The first, after setting the agenda to be discussed in the House, the fixed time is allocated by consensus of major political parties. Generally, the time is allocated as per the party's strength in the House. The sharing time among the parties again, is shared inside each party that they can share to some members or one or two members can consume the whole as per the subject matter. Second, according to the weight of the subject matter, senior leaders are always in priorities over the junior members as they don't take it as their responsibility to speak. Third, the Presiding legislators like the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister and ministers do not take part in discussions. Fourth, due to not having interesting subject matter or MP's personal conditions related to one's physical as well as mental condition, he may not speak. Last, not having ideas and lacking proper knowledge about subject they may not speak.
To speak or not in House can be seen in two ways. Not speaking in House is, not making the voice of people who elected a person as their representative heard by others. Second, if a member speaks more he is highlighted in the media and such persons become popular publicly and inside related political parties. They are also evaluated as capable members. By this, such member's political future is relatively safe than that of others. So, the first matter relates to moral values of democracy and the latter one is about unequal development of members' personality and political career.
In conclusion, with a view to respecting the democratic norms, every member should speak in the house and take part compulsorily to put the voter's views in the House. For example, the 94 members of the dissolved CA who had not spoken in the house that they had their millions of people deprived to put their voices in the House. At that time, 1 member had represented 42 thousand people. So 94 times of 42 thousand of people were not heard in the House. So, it is not democratic way under democratic system.
Similarly, political parties also should have encouraged all members to put their views. Those members who were unknown to the rules, regulations and process and other related matters of this field should have been given instructions and coaching by their own parties. Some NGOs and INGOs were massively involved in this field and they also had them visit abroad but there was less chance to get such opportunities besides the elite group. Even if, some got somewhere, a lesser chance of their instructing was very high of their learning capacities. The laymen also hadn't tried to practice and learn more. Voters also should re-think for coming days on electing such members not speaking or expressing views about such invaluable matter of writing constitution. Likewise, presiding also should put public views in the house as a representative. For this purpose, whatever practice may have been there in the past Laws and Rules, they should be changed to make them friendly for coming days.
Budhathoki is undersecretary at Constituent Assembly Secretariat