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Report of One-Day Seminar on Social Justice and Development in Present Constitution

Organised by Center for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD)

03 October 2015, Chitwan

One day presentation and discussion program was organized on "Social Justice and Development in Present Constitution" on 3 October 2015 ( 16 Asoj 2072BS) in Global Hotel in Chitwan district. Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel former Vice-Chairman of National Planning Commission and Chairman of Centre of Consolidation of Democracy (CCD) presented paper on "Development in Present Constitution" where as Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari Vice-chairman of CCD presented paper on "Social Justice in Present Constitution". Dr Keshav Bhakta Sapkota , Campus Chief of Birendra Multiple Campus , Bharapur , Chitwan and Local Intellectual Dr. Ishwori Laudary respectively commented on the paper presented by Pokharel and Adhikari. In the presentation and discussion programs, there was presence of professors, representatives from Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) and Nepal Bar Association, journalists, teachers, senior doctors from different hospitals, Chitwan based social workers and intellectuals. There was presence of women from different sectors in significant numbers. The program, which had almost 140 enthusiastic participants, was very much lively.

Inaugural Session

The chairperson of (CCD) Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel chaired the inaugural session. Tek Prasad Gurung, President of District Committee of Nepali Congress was the chief guest of the program. Opinions expressed by main speakers of the session goes as follows:

Prakash Adhikari (General Secretary, Nepal University Teacher's Association and Local Program Coordinator)

I welcome all including executive committee members of CCD and others from different organizations. Nepal has promulgated constitution after a long time and with a great effort. However, Madhesh based parties are protesting against this constitution and India has imposed undeclared blockade making life and livelihood in Nepal difficult. India's blockade cannot be seen as behaviour of a good neighbor. The problem between India and Nepal should be solved through diplomatic means.

Constitution should be document that remains in practice for a long time. The constitution that was promulgated in the US in the eighteenth century is still in practice. This constitution of Nepal should also be able to provide long-term stability and make Nepal reach and prosperous. I expect help and active participation from everyone for the success of this program.

Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari (Vice-Chairman CCD)

Chitwan has remained a fertile soil for intellectual discussions. CCD is an organization established with inspiration and motivation of great leaders of Nepal's democratic movements, Ganesh Man Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Girija Prasad Koirala in 1993 (2050 BS). Present Prime Minister Sushil Koirala led it during its establishment and later by widely admired leader Bhim Bahadur Tamang. Now, Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel leads it. Right from its establishment this organization has not got the government assistance. In the beginning CCD got help from some international organizations that advocated democratic socialism. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) is the organization that has been collaborating with CCD right from the inception of CCD. There are many International Non-governmental organizations (INGOs) in Nepal but FES remains only one such organization that promotes and supports discussions on issues such as democratic socialism and social justice.

I request the participants to offer comments, criticism and ask questions based on the paper and presentations. I thank Prakash Adhikari, Secretary General Secretary of Nepal University Teachers Association and others for working to make this program a success.

Dr. Chandra Dev Bhatta (FES Representative)

Social justice has long history. Even in Nepal' context, right from the time of King Mahendra Malla, we have to see political, social and cultural processes that tried to ensure social justice. This constitution has listed 31 fundamental human rights, which can be implemented only after 172 new laws are made. This remains a challenge in implementation of fundamental rights that would contribute to the social justice. True democracy (loktantra) is not only about constitutional and legal structures but it is also a way of social life that can be felt by the people themselves.
I remember the explanation by Henry Kissinger about the development. When we talk about development capital formation becomes the most primary issue. Our economic dependence is going on increasing and it has now reached almost 70% by now. The models, concepts and policies of development are dictated to us from outside. Because of lack of farsightedness and vision, we have been dependent on others to this extent. Development connects what transpires in national and international level even to our kitchen.

American development talks about almost every level of development from enriching 'kitchen' to visionary plans and strategies about national development. Hence, America is prosperous. However, it appears that America minus its prosperity has very little thing to offer satisfaction to life. We are prosperous and reach in many other respects. Our developmental models have to be based on our geography, tradition, religion, culture and other organic aspects of our social life. I want to thank all for organizing such a great program with participation of such intellectuals.

Tek Prasad Gurung (Chief Guest and President of Nepali Congress District Committee Chitwan)

I thank CCD for bringing such a good program about issues of social justice and development in Chitwan. After the promulgation of constitution, unrest, protests and agitations have been seen in some districts of Terai/Madhesh. The recently promulgated constitution also guarantees rights of people of Madhesh as well but this message could not be propagated well in Tarai/Madhesh. If this type of program could be taken to there, most probably , it would help to convince people there. It is necessary to inform public about contents of this constitution such as in sectors of social justice and development. I also wish a success for this program.

Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel (Chairperson CCD)

CCD is an institution established by late leaders Ganesh Man Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Girija Prasad Koirala after the restoration of democracy in 1990 (2047BS). Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was the first patron of CCD. After its establishment, CCD has been consistently been active in its objectives. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari is active in this institution right after its establishment and he can be called a living memory of the institution. FES has been continuously supporting CCD in its programs.

As far as present constitution is concerned, it is more progressive and encompasses many new pro-people concepts. With the promulgation of this constitution republicanism, federalism and secularism have been institutionalized. However, implementation of a constitution depends upon making laws to operationalize the constitution. Serious discussions are necessary about different aspects of this constitution.

Presentation and Discussion Session

Prof. Dr. Bishnu Shankar Poudel executive member of CCD and Professor of Political Science in Centre for Nepal and Asia Studies in Tribhuvan University chaired this session. The presentations, comments, discussions and questions of the session went as follows:

Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari (Paper Presenter)

The first Constituent Assembly (CA) could not promulgate constitution but the second CA after a lot of bargaining and natural disaster could promulgate the constitution. The agreement between four parties initially and unity among three largest parties at the end made the promulgation of constitution through CA possible. This is seventh constitution in constitutional history of Nepal and first one written by people's representatives.

However, boycotting of CA by Tarai/Madhesh based parties and imposition of undeclared blockade by India has caused a great problem in social and economic life of people. This constitution is inclusive with respect to language, caste, culture and religion. It seems to have aimed at ending caste, sex, and class based discriminations. However, the way these things are codifiedis not so good. But this constitution is relatively better compared to the constitution of the other South Asian countries.

The most important aspect of this constitution is institutionalization of democratic socialism. It has encompassed concepts of democracy followed and practiced worldwide. Reformed parliamentary democracy has been instutionalized where there will be executive Prime minister and ceremonial president as the head of the state. In order to bring political stability, there is a provision in the constitution which prevents "proposal of no confidence" against the prime minister for two years and prime minister is not easily allowed to dissolve the parliament. Mixed election system has been adopted for election to the House of Representative wherein 60% will be elected through first past the post (FPTP) and 40% through proportional system. Thus out of 275 members in federal parliament , 165 will be elected through FPTP and 110 through proportional system. The upper house of the Federal legislature will have 8 members each from 7 provinces and three members will be nominated by the president. Hence, there will be altogether 59 members in that upper house. The federal council of ministers will not have more than 25 ministers. The constitutional provision has been such that person not elected to the houses cannot be prime minister or minister.

The provincial assemblies will be unicameral. The representation in provincial assembly is like in federal parliament where representation through FPTP and proportional systems will be in the ratios of 60% to 40%. In provincial council of ministers, also there is provision of not having more than 20% of total assembly members. Judiciary is of three levels. Secularism has been defined in different form.

Several commissions have been provisioned by the constitutions with a view to preserve culture, identity and languages of different castes, religions and cultures. There are 31 fundamental rights of Nepali citizens according to the constitution. All languages spoken in Nepal are considered national languages and Nepali has been kept as language of official work. Even in the issue of citizenship, the constitution is more democratic than that of India.

There are political, economic, social and cultural discriminations in the country. Rather than focused on classes, protests and movements have happened for caste, religion and geography, which should not have happened.

In order to implement the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution, there has to be double digit growth of economy and many laws have to be passed. Otherwise, it can be difficult to implement provisions related to unemployment, education and health. Adoption of mixed election system without threshold can give to hung parliament and unstable government. Some worldwide assumptions of multiparty democracy have been discarded in the constitution. These are challenges of implementation of the constitution.

Dr. Ishwari Laudari (Commentator)

Paper presenter Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari is a specialist in the topic of "social justice" that he has presented today. The paper and presentations have analysed very well about 'social justice' component in the constitution and challenges the implementation of this constitution has to face. The paper would have been better if it had also talked about directive principles and preamble of the constitution and social justice components there.

Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel (Paper Presenter)

The constitution guarantees that sovereignty is vested on people and it institutionalizes republicanism, federalism and multiparty democracy. It may take about 20 years for this constitution to be operational. The preamble of the constitution sets its aim as creating economic equality, prosperity, social justice, creating foundations of socialism, and creating sustainable and long lasting peace through multiparty democratic republican system. Long term and sustainable economic development and creation of democratic socialist political economic system seem to be objective of this constitution.

In economic development and prosperity, it appears that this constitution aims for one door policy. Since the constitution states that economy will be jointly managed by public sector, cooperatives and private sectors, the doubts about investment friendly environment have been raised. Right to property is mentioned in the constitution but at the same time, it also says that the state will provide employment. These apparently contradictory provisions need further explanation. Social security is also important component in this constitution.

The constitution of 1990 (2047BS) had given great importance to private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs also had played important role in contributing to the different sectors of the society. Even in local level, NGOs had played important role in coordinating different developmental activities. However, this constitution focuses on cooperatives; hence, capital formation has to be right from the local level. This constitution makes state more accountable and responsible. It appears, this constitution aims to use capital generated through cooperatives in national development. The role of civil society has been constricted by the constitution.

The beautiful aspect of cooperative focused economy is that, it acts as shock absorber in that the economy tends to be less affected by economic ups and downs of other parts of the world. However, if private sector cannot be activated and motivated it will have direct impact in economic development and prosperity of the country. Rather than creating competition between private sectors and cooperatives it is necessary to take them together in such a way that they complement each other in national economic growth. With federal set up, even development will be regionalized, which calls for both healthy competition and cooperation among provinces . Good governance and healthy competition between states will contribute in national development as a whole. The real landscape of future society of Nepal will depend on the way this constitution will be implemented.

Dr. Keshav Bhakta Sapkota (Commentator)

This constitution is achievement of long and untiring struggle. The greatest challenge in front of this is its implementation. The laws necessary for the implementation of constitution should be made as soon as possible. Nepal is becoming more and more dependent on other countries. Production has not increased in the country. Since many groups were, there to make this constitution, it is a common document and asset for all political parties.

Prithvi Man Gurung (Ex-chairperson Nepali Congress District Committee)

I thank both the presenters of the papers. Both the papers are informative and rich intellectually. Constitution is a document of agreement between different forces with differing political, economic, social and cultural backgrounds. If laws for implementation of constitution are not made within coming few years, there might be danger in the process of implementation of the constitution.

Krishna Lal Sapkota (Ex-chairperson, Association of District Development Committees of Nepal)

I thank CCD for the program here in Chitwan. Constitution was promulgated after long transition and uncertainty. It is good that we got constitution but with the coming of constitution, seed of conflict also has been shown in Tarai /Madhesh. In Mahesh, there has been cry about the constitution being discriminatory. I request the presenters to find out what constitutional provisions are discriminating to Madheshis vis-à-vis Pahadiyas. The demands of Madheshis and Tharus should be fulfilled by the state as far as possible. This constitution however has not been able to preserve, protect and speak for our traditional religion and culture.

Devendra Prasad Upadhyaya (Ex-chairperson, Nepal Teacher's Association)

Promulgation of constitution is a thing to be happy. The secularism as defined in the constitution is against our traditional religion. Declaring Nepal a secular country might breed a conflict in Nepal in the future.

Shaligram Sharma (Trainer)

It would be better if the paper and presentations had contained how this constitution envisions the management of resources. When Commission for Inclusion is made, why are so many other commissions necessary?

Chiranjibi Shrestha (Ex-Campus Chief, Bal Kumari Multipale Campus)

I liked the way this program was managed. Now we have to focus our attention towards economic development and prosperity.

Srijana Devkota (Chief, Nursing Unit, Bal Kumari Multiple Campus)

Now, attention should be focused to make laws in order to implement the constitution.

Rajeswhor Khanal (Professor)

It would have been better if papers had contained 22-point and 8-point agreements done with Madhesh based parties. The contribution of agriculture in economy has decreased. It is now time to think about developing agricultural sector.

Khem Narayan Sapkota (Campus Chief, Saptagandaki Campus)

This constitution is good but it is comparatively longer. The constitution of 1990 (2047 BS) could not address the issues of social justice therefore that constitution became short lived. The main issue is that everyone should be equal before the law. There should be constitutional provision to reduce the corruption. The country cannot develop until there is no increase in national productivity.

Devendra Gurung (Secretary, Nepali Congress District Committee Chitwan)

The election of members of House of Representatives (federal lower house) and unicameral state assembly through FPTP and proportional system in the ratio of 60% to 40% is not rational as it gives rise to political instability. The constitution says that many things in the constitution will be as per the law but the challenge for now is that whether those laws can be made.

Thaneshwar Sapkota (Professor)

Remittance has been main factor sustaining our economy. Should we search or not search other productive sectors for capital formation?

Sarojini Sharma (Women Right Activist)

Now, we have to head towards sustainable development. It would have been better if you had further elaborated meaning of 'right based approach'.

Kamal Poudel (Professor, Central University Campus, Tribhuvan University)

I thank Prof. Yagya Adhikari for clearly outlining the challenges that implementation of constitution might face. Is protest and movement in Tarai/Madhesh against national unity? Should issues like language and religion be not taken to referendum ?

Dr. Anil Bikram Karki (Physician, BP Koirala Cancer Hospital)

The constitution of 1990 (2047 BS) was of the spirit that let people work and let them protest as well but this constitution seems to be of the spirit that 'let the people protest' only . It is necessary for the constitution to be clear about creating investment friendly environment for the private sector.

Surya Narayan Poudel (Associate Professor, Birendra Multiple Campus, Bharatpur, Chitwan)

India has shown excessive dominance in its behavior with Nepal. When we talk of social justice, if there is no production it is impossible to talk of 'just' distribution. Our main challenge is to how to develop resources and means of development. We are suffering because we do not have 'nationalist' leaders.

Kumar Karki (Chairman, Regional Committee Nepali Congress - Region no. 2, Chitwan)

If the paper had elaborated discussions about directive principles of the constitution, it would have been better.

Jagadishwar Baral (Professor- Bal Kumari Campus)

Why could issues of 'social justice' not be implemented in the past?

Bimal Poudel (Secretary, Tribhuvan University Teachers Association Birendra Campus Unit)

If issues such as federalism and inclusion were there in Prof. Yagya Adhikari's paper it would have been much better. Why is there protest in Tarai/Madhesh, we expect clearer answer from you people.

Uddhab Lohani (Nepal Bar Association)

Judiciary needs to be effective for the stability of the democracy.

Indira Sapkota (Ex-Vice Chairperson, Nepal Teacher's Association)

I thank CCD for doing the work that the state should have done. This type of interaction should have been organized throughout Nepal before the constitution was promulgated.

Bharat Dawadi (Political Activist)

It would have been better if other components of social and political life could also have been discussed.

Bala Nath Sigdel (Professor, Bal Kumari Campus)

The contents .style and ways of presentations are very good. Threshold for becoming a national party should have been mentioned. National dress should have been mentioned in the constitution. The provision for providing allowances to the unemployed is laughable because it is simply impossible to do so. The educational qualifications for political posts such as member of parliaments and others should have been determined.

Devaki Gautam (Women Right Activist)

It is not good to argue that one should get employment without developing skills or capabilities. Threshold should have been kept for the stability of the government.

Nil Kantha Dhungana (Social Worker)

This type of programs should also be organized in Tarai/Madhesh, where there have been protests and agitations.

Keshav Maharjan (Local Intellectual)

There is need of in depth discourse and discussion about discrimination based on caste and class.

Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel and Yagya Prasad Adhikari gave brief answers to the questions raised from the floor.

Prof. Dr. Bishnu Shankar Poudel (Chairperson of the session)

I appreciate the papers presented by Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel and Yagya Prasad Adhikari. This program in many respects is better than programs organized in star hotels in Kathmandu. CCD has been organizing such discussion programs and it will keep on doing so in the future as well. I thank all; paper presenters, commentators, and intellectual and enthusiastic participants in this program.

Prepared by: Shiva Prasad Tiwari
Faculty Member, Masters Program in International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRD)-Tribhuvan University.
Email: shiva.irs5@gmail.com
Contact no: 00977-985116529

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