Nepal summons first Constituent Assembly meeting Jan 22

Kathmandu, Jan 11 : The chairman of the Interim Election Council of Nepal, Khil Raj Regmi, Saturday evening summoned the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly Jan 22, ending a month-long row over who would call the meeting.

The government decided to call the meeting 56 days after elections to the Constituent Assembly were held Nov 19.

Nepal's Constituent Assembly has 601 members and out of that, 240 members are elected through first-past-the post elections while the rest are nominated from political parties representing various marginalised, oppressed, under-represented classes and groups, ethnic minorities and others.

As head of the state and citing international practices, President Ram Baran Yadav had sought a role in calling the assembly while Chairman Regmi also claimed the right citing constitutional provisions.

According to Article 69 of the Interim Constitution, the chairman of the Interim Election Council has summoned the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly at 3 p.m. at the International Convention Centre, said a statement issued by Regmi's office.

Acording to Article 69, it is mandatory that a Constituent Assembly meeting be called within 21 days after the Election Commission submits the final list of the elected candidates under the first-past-the-post and proportional representation categories. The Election Commission published the final list in the Nepal Gazette Jan 6. Regmi enjoys the rights of a prime minister.

After two institutions - president's and prime minister's offices - vied over who will enjoy the right to call the meeting, the debate landed in the Supreme Court. Two different petitions were filed in the court challenging each other's prerogative.

The row ended Saturday afternoon after the president told the country's interim executive head to call the first meeting of the newly elected Constituent Assembly taking into consideration the practices and constitutional provisions in the country and international norms.

The president's office has been saying that summoning the Constituent Assembly was the right of the head of the state and letting the executive head call such a meeting will set a wrong precedent.

The Interim Constitution which was prepared in 2008 has an ambiguous provision that states that the Constituent Assembly shall be called by the prime minister and the legislative-parliament shall be called by the President.

The Constituent Assembly plays both roles, assembly and legislative-parliament, according to the constitutional provision.

The president's office has been saying that it does not look well if two structures of a single body are called separately by the president and the prime minister.

This constitutional provision was actually followed in the first Constituent Assembly meeting at a time when the role of the king in Nepal was suspended and late Girija Prasad Koirala was assuming both positions, head of the state as well as of government and summoned the meeting in his capacity as prime minister who had executive power.

Moreover, the constitution framers did not foresee that there will be elections again for the Constituent Assembly and such a tussle will surface.

The Constituent Assembly has to draft a new constitution within a year.

--IANS (Posted on 11-01-2014)

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