I had been to Sauraha during a recent weekend. But I was there not for forest walk, elephant ride, elephant bathing, jungle safari or Tharu cultural show, for which Sauraha is famous. I was attending Nepal Bar Association's 13th National Lawyers' Convention. The 3-day convention was held in Chitwan. It was an opportunity for lawyers to meet one another from all over the country.
The NBA slogan was 'Continuance of Federal Democratic Republic and Enhancing Professional Capacity for Independence of Judiciary and Economic Development. Over 90 papers on different legal issues were expected to be presented in one and a half day. I attended sessions where environmental issues were being discussed.
The opening ceremony was graced by President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, Acting Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha and Constituent Assembly Chairperson Subas Nembang, among other dignitaries.
Dressed in saree, Sheri Meyerhoffer, Head of Mission of IDEA International, stole the show as she was addressing the gathering in Nepali. Later on, of course in her eloquent English, she highlighted the NBA's role in the democratic, human rights and inclusive movements, rule of law and independence of judiciary. She portrayed lawyers not only as social engineers but also as political engineers. She highlighted the role of lawyers in crafting the constitution by exerting influence to the political leaders.
Renaud Meyer, Country Director of UNDP in Nepal, was overwhelmed, honored and privileged to be at the convention. He talked about the crucial role of the lawyers to make citizens aware of their rights and their access to justice. President-elect of Law Asia Prashanta Kumar reminded the gathering that history had showed Nepal resolving its issues through harmony. Nepalese are indeed fortunate to have international communities' support and love. These good wishes started the convention on the right note.
Attorney General Baburam Kuwar spoke of legal and societal issues that need to be addressed by lawyers. Constituent Assembly Chair Nembang showed his eagerness to promulgate the new constitution and humorously said he would flaunt it while pleading as a lawyer before the Supreme Court citing the articles of the new constitution. He reminded the lawyers that NBA had fought tyranny. He warned that the country is at present positioned between rock and deep sea. He congratulated NBA for winning confidence of the people who are eagerly waiting for the 13th NBA Declaration. The country, he said, was waiting for the suggestion, opinion and advice of the NBA through this convention to the CA to help in the drafting of the constitution. He called for NBA's support.
Acting Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha informed the gathering that constitution promulgation is not an end. It is a beginning of the development of constitution.
President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav took the microphone amidst the restless crowd. Most of the time his voice was indistinct. I cannot tell much of what he said but one thing is for sure he looked pained and concerned about the political development. He found confidence in the two thousand five hundred odd lawyers gathered at the convention that NBA will be able to facilitate the political process for betterment of Nepal and Nepalese people. This I can tell by the length of time he spent in addressing the lawyers gathered to listen to him. He made an appeal to end the deadlock and draft the constitution through consensus.
By the time NBA President Senior Advocate Hari Krishna Karki was speaking I was already queuing up in the food stall. I unfortunately missed his speech for which I am regretful.
On the second half of Chaitra 5 Nikhil Narayan, Country Representative of International Commission of Jurists Nepal, Ambassador of Brazil to Nepal Her Excellency Maria Teresa Mesquite Pessoa and Senior Advocates spoke from the podium warming up the convention environment and highlighting the conference issues.
In the evening as darkness was approaching the lawyers were getting more animated. They were sipping whisky and talking politics -- this time it was a ‘bar’ politics at a local bar. The more they sipped on whisky the more vulnerable they were getting.
On Chaitra 6, several sessions were running simultaneously at different halls. I was seated in the hall where environmental issues were being discussed. There were not many papers related to environmental issues. The lawyers presenting their papers did their best to sensitize fellow lawyers with respect to environmental issues plaguing Nepal. I wish more people appreciated environment and helped to protect, promote and conserve it.
In the evening there was reception dinner and cultural program. Some of the best talents sang songs and showed their dance performances amidst roaring applause.
I cannot talk much of what happened on Chaitra 7 the last day of the convention as I left for Kathmandu on that day. Law Minister Mr. Narahari Acharya was expected to be present during the closing session. NBA Declaration was made on the last day. The Declaration touched upon issues of constitution drafting process; constitution's intra-issues; judiciary, law professionals and legal aid; judicial council and appointment of judges; chamber practice done by former Supreme Court Chief Justices and Justices; prevailing corruption in judiciary; implementation of law professionals code of conduct and its review; law professionals' capacity building and lawyers' academy; effectiveness, structure and legal management of Nepal Bar Council; human rights, peace process and transitional justice; good governance and control of corruption; economic development and commercial law; environment and national resources management law; proposed criminal and civil code; and women, children and marginalized communities among others.