Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his government have been accused of crossing the constitutional line for “summoning” members of a constitutional body for clarification.
The government on Sunday had sought clarification from the National Human Rights Commission on its statement delivered at the UN Human Rights Commission last month.
Rights defenders argue that the act undermined the very spirit of having the national human rights institution.
Prime Minister Oli had summoned the office bearers of the NHRC to “reprimand them for criticising government activities”, particularly the issue of discriminatory citizenship provision, provision related to fundamental rights of the new constitution and excessive use of force against the protesters in the Madhes.
Commissioner Mohna Ansari had addressed the UN session, for which PM Oli had categorically “targeted” her during the meeting, according to one of the members present at the meeting. NHRC Chair Anup Raj Sharma had defended the statement, saying it was that of the commission and not of an individual.
Rights defenders have expressed concern over the government act, saying such activities defeat the entire purpose of having a constitutional body. “Reprimanding the national rights watchdog over its report is an act quite unbecoming a democratic government,” said rights activist Charan Prasai. “It has exposed the government’s intolerance towards the issues of human rights.”
Constitutional bodies are created to oversee the activities of the executive. The NHRC is an advisory body to the government regarding human rights. According to Article 293, even Parliament cannot monitor and instruct the NHRC for its activities, as it is an independent and autonomous body. The Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance) in a statement on Thursday also objected to the government act of summoning the commission over its statement at the UN forum.
“When the NHRC members are called by the Office of the Prime Minister just to
question and seek clarification over its independent activities, it is an absolute breach of the jurisdiction guaranteed by the constitution. This is also against the Paris Principles on National Human Rights Institutions,” read the statement.
In her address to the UN session, Ansari had mentioned the contradictory provision on fundamental rights. Article 47 states that “the state will make legal provisions, as required, within three years of the commencement of this constitution”.
Fundamental rights are inalienable rights, which should be applicable immediately after the promulgation of the constitution. Citizens should not be deprived of their fundamental rights such as life in the absence of act.
Ansari had also raised the issue of citizenship provision, saying “that may curtail women’s right to transfer their nationality to their children”.
Stating that deaths of 55 people, including security personnel, during the protest in the Tarai, she had cited the NHRC finding that “those killings and injuries were due to excessive use of force”. The commission had made public its Tarai report in November last year. “We informed him [the PM] about the provisions and our reports issued at different times,” said Ansari without divulging details of the meeting.
Former NHRC Spokes-person Gauri Pradhan said the commission, which is a constitutional, independent and autonomous body, has every right to monitor government activities based on facts.
PM Oli’s Press Adviser Pramod Dahal refuted media reports that the PM had reprimanded NHRC commissioners.