Govt prepares bill to amend NHRC act flouting constitutional provisions (with video)

Kathmandu (Pahichan) April 24 – National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a constitutional body authorized to work freely for the protection and promotion of human rights, has expressed serious exception to government’s push to curtail some key authority through an amendment of law.

Recently government has prepared a bill seeking to amend National Human Rights Act. The constitutional body has conveyed its concerns to both government and parliament stating that the draft bill would plague its role in the promotion and protection of human rights.

The body is of the view that if draft laws is endorsed without amendment, it would send out negative message in international arena about Nepal’s commitment. Nepal is currently a member of United Nations Human Rights Council which means Nepal shoulders more responsibility to protect human rights enhancing the capacity of its national institutions. The bill, however, curtails the rights of NHRC to function in an effective way.

Speaking to Pahichan, Secretary at NHRC Bed Prasad Bhattarai said that some the provisions of draft would shrink the rights of national human rights watchdog. The government has brought the bill unilaterally without consultations with NHRC and other key stakeholders.

“If the amendment bill is endorsed by parliament, NHRC’s 10 regional and sub-regional offices lose their legal basis for the continuation. Similarly, our right to set up office in any specific area on the basis of necessity will be curtailed,” Bhattarai said.

The amendment bill further says that NHRC should recommend to the AG’s office for filing cases along with the evidence and the AG’s office may decide to file if it feels a need to do so. The bill adds that the AG’s office shall request NHRC for further investigations on any recommendation to file a case.

Such provision clearly goes against the constitution provisions. The article 293 of constitution says, “The chiefs and officials of the Constitutional Bodies must be accountable and responsible to the Federal Parliament. The committees of the House of Representatives may monitor and evaluate the functioning, including reports, of the Constitutional Bodies, other than the National Human Rights Commission, and give necessary direction or advice.”   “Now, we are making recommendations to government to act on the issue of violation of human rights. We are not accountable to AG office,” said Bhattarai.

Government prepares such draft at the time when majority of recommendations made by NHRC to government remains unimplemented. The draft clearly shows that government is not accountable to address the issues relating to violations of human rights. “The draft aims to kill the rights of commission. If draft is passed without any amendment, international community feels that Nepal is not sensitive to human rights,” Bhattarai said. He further added that government wants to maintain its control over the functioning of the commission.  The constitution has provided following rights to NHCRC:

  • To make recommendation, accompanied by the reasons and grounds, to the concerned body for taking departmental action against and imposing punishment on those who have violated human rights,
  • To carry out periodic reviews of the relevant laws relating to human rights and make recommendation to the Government of Nepal for necessary improvements in and amendments to such laws.
  • if Nepal has to become a party to any international treaty or agreement on human rights, to make recommendation, accompanied by the reasons therefor, to the Government of Nepal; and monitor whether any such treaty or agreement to which Nepal is already a party has been implemented, and if it is found not to have been implemented, to make recommendation to the Government of Nepal for its implementation,
  • To publish, in accordance with law, the names of the officials, persons or bodies who have failed to observe or implement any recommendations or directives made or given by the National Human Rights Commission in relation to the violations of human rights, and record them as violators of human rights.
  • In discharging its functions or performing its duties, the National Human Rights Commission may exercise the following powers:
  • To exercise all such powers as of a court in respect of the summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person before the Commission and seeking and recording his or her information or statements or depositions, examining evidence and producing exhibits and proofs,
  • on receipt of information by the Commission in any manner that a serious violation of human rights has already been committed or is going to be committed, to search any person or his or her residence
  • or office, enter such residence or office without notice, and, in the course of making such search, take possession of any document, evidence or proof related with the violation of human rights,
  • In the event of necessity to take action immediately on receipt of information that the human rights of any person are being violated, to enter any government office or any other place without notice and rescue such person,
  • To order for the provision of compensation in accordance with law to any person who is a victim of the violations of human rights;
  • The National Human Rights Commission may so delegate any of its functions, duties and powers to the Chairperson of the Commission, any of its Members or a government employee as to be exercised and complied with subject to the specified conditions.

The bill is also against the Supreme Court ruling that makes implementation of NHRC orders mandatory, and against the international standard for human rights watchdog bodies. It proposes mandatory consent by the Finance Ministry for accepting additional financial sources for the NHRC to carry out human rights related activities which means government wishes to keep NHRC under its control.  Pahichan has talked with Secretary Bhattarai to solicit the views of NHRC on bill. Here is the link of video.