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Amid reservations, government bent on amending Human Rights Act

  • Rights watchdog says the move is aimed at reducing its role as an agency subordinate to the government
Binod Ghimire, Apr 26 2019

Despite serious reservations from the constitutional rights watchdog, the government looks bent on forwarding the bill to amend the National Human Rights Commission Act-2012, some provisions of which human rights defenders say undermine the commission’s authority.

 

The government two weeks ago approved the amendment bill, making it mandatory for the commission to recommend the cases it has investigated to the attorney general

who then decides whether or not to proceed the case. The existing Act authorises the commission to write directly to the respective person or agency to execute its recommendations made after the investigation.

The proposed bill, which has been registered at the federal parliament, undermining the existing jurisdiction, gives every authority regarding the implementation of the recommendations by the constitutional body to the attorney general.

The commission has publicly expressed reservations about the bill and asked the government for its revision.

The government, however, looks adamant on its position and committed to presenting the bill for endorsement without revision.

“The government drafted the bill to get it approved by Parliament in the present form,” said Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal at a programme on Thursday. He said the constitution clearly defines the roles of the attorney general and that was taken into consideration while drafting the amendment bill.

The government will present the bill for endorsement in the budget session of Parliament that commences on April 29.

Officials at the commission, however, say they are saddened by the comments from Dhakal.

Govinda Sharma Paudyal, a member of the commission, said the draft contradicts Article 293 of the constitution, which says constitutional commissions are accountable and answerable only to the federal parliament.

Even parliamentary committees cannot give directives to the human rights commission.

However, Clause 17 (3) of the new bill proposes that the attorney general can request the commission for further investigation or collection of more evidence, if necessary, before deciding to register the case.

“After listening to Minister Dhakal, I have concluded that the government wants the commission to be one of its subordinate offices,” Paudyal told the Post.

He said it was unfortunate that the government was attacking the watchdog while Nepal sits in the United Nations Human Rights Council as a member.

The officials at the commission said the government came up with the bill completely ignoring its 17-point recommendations despite repeated requests from the commission to incorporate them.

It had proposed that there should be no statute of limitation in cases to be filed with the commission.

The commission sought legal clarity in making public the names of the officials, individuals and agencies found guilty of human rights violations or those who fail to follow the recommendations, rulings and directives of the commission.

It also had sought revision allowing it to recommend the compensation up to one million rupees depending on the situation of the victim. The suggestions also included the authority to recommend that the government provide free education and health service, vocational training, residence, employment and other facilities to the victims, if deemed necessary.

Through the amendment, it also sought authority to take action against those in the cases of contempt of the commission. The penalty could be up to Rs20,000 in fine or three months of imprisonment or both. It also had sought legal clarity in opening provincial and other offices within the provinces and appointing the officials as per its need.

The bill, however, proposes removing Sub-clause 2 of Clause 27 of the Act, which would bar the commission from opening regional, sub-regional and contact offices in different parts of the country.

A series of actions of the KP Sharma Oli administration has been a cause for concern in the last one year, as stakeholders have repeatedly said some moves are so draconian that they undermine free speech and press freedom. Immediately after its formation, the government had banned protests at Maitighar Mandala, a move which was retracted following a public backlash.

In February last year, immediately after Oli assumed office, the government assigned sweeping powers to the Prime Minister’s Office and brought three major departments--National Investigation Department, the Department of Revenue Investigation and the Department of Money Laundering Investigation--under the PM. These departments were under various ministries earlier.

A new Information Technology Bill, which gives immense powers to the authorities to block social media platforms if they are not registered in Nepal, has also alarmed the stakeholders, who say its provisions can be misused to curtail freedom of expression.

Human rights defenders say the government is making moves one after another in a way to centralise power.

“The plan to endorse the bill to amend the National Human Rights Act is not only an attack on human rights but also on democracy,” said Paudyal.

 

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New edition of Vagina Monologues tackles harassment and patriarchy on a personal level

  • The play comes in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against theatre practitioners, and centres around female actors expressing anger at growing incidents of violence against women in the country
TSERING D GURUNG, Apr 26 2019
Four years ago, when a group of female theatre artists began working on a Nepali adaptation of the landmark feminist play The Vagina Monologues, many, particularly men, were curious.
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Crowded Kathmandu’s few remaining open spaces are being steadily encroached upon

Anup Ojha, Kathmandu, Apr 26 2019
Post Photo: Elite Joshi
On Wednesday morning, Kathmandu woke up to a rude reminder of just how vulnerable the city remains to earthquakes. Two back-to-back earthquakes of magnitudes 5.2 and 4.3 shook Kathmandu within a span of 11 minutes, a day before the fourth anniversary of the April 2015 earthquakes, serving as a reminder--and a warning--of lessons unlearned.

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Are beauty pageants still relevant in modern Nepal? The debate continues.

ALISHA SIJAPATI, Kathmandu, Apr 25 2019
The post was a response to yet another viral Miss Nepal video-clip, this time less savoury than Khatiwada’s introductory video. In the clip from the auditions to this year’s pageant, choreographer Rachana Gurung Sharma is seen chastising 22-year-old contestant Ashmita Maharjan for appearing in the audition without makeup and in glasses.

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Court tells authorities not to collect tax from Ncell for the time being

TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu, Apr 26 2019
When the Supreme Court on April 9 issued the full text of its February verdict on Ncell capital gains tax issue, it was largely believed that the matter was finally put to rest and that the long-drawn-out debate as to who should clear the tax liability—buyer or seller—had come to an end.

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Disease control division to work with Met Office to combat climate-induced epidemics

ARJUN PAUDEL, Kathmandu, Apr 25 2019
The change in climate pattern is attributed to the spread of vector-borne diseases in such areas.

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Main News

ICYMI: Here are our top stories from Thursday, April 25

Post Report, Apr 25 2019
Here are some of the top stories from The Kathmandu Post (April 25, 2019).
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Middle Bhotekoshi says it may cancel contract with Guangxi

PRAHLAD RIJAL, Apr 25 2019
The Middle Bhotekoshi Hydroelectric Project said it might end the contract with the Chinese contractor for the civil and hydro-mechanical works for its failure to follow instructions and resume work.
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National Games conclude with concerns over maintenance and upgradation of infrastructure

ADARSHA DHAKAL, Apr 25 2019
Curtains came down on the eighth National Games on Wednesday amidst a colourful evening at the Nepalgunj Stadium as more serious concerns loom over the best use and proper maintenance of the sports infrastructure that the Province 5 now has at its disposal.
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Money

World

Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua have killed at least 58 people, injured dozens and displaced more than 4,000, authorities said on Sunday.

A search for more possible victims was under way in the town of Sentani, which was hit by flash floods late on Saturday. Fifty-one people were killed and 74 injured there, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the national disaster agency, told a news briefing.

Heavy rain caused landslides in the nearby provincial capital of Jayapura, killing seven there, Nugroho said.

Soldiers pulled alive a 5-month old baby from under the rubble of his house and took him to hospital, Papua military spokesman Muhammad Aidi said.

The number of victims “will probably increase because the evacuation process is still taking place and not all affected areas have been reached,” Nugroho said.

About 4,150 people are sheltering in six evacuation centers, he said.

Hundreds of houses, three bridges and a Twin Otter airplane parked at the airport were damaged by the floods. The Sentani airport, the province’s main transport hub, remained open.

TV footage showed mud and large logs on Sentani’s main roads after floodwaters receded.

Disaster authorities have warned local governments of flash flood risks due to deforestation in the mountains surrounding the town, Nugroho said, adding that in 2018 Jakarta sent seedlings intended for tree-planting.

“Forest destruction in the Cyclops mountains have increased for use as firewood and to turn the land into plantations,” Nugroho said.

“Since 2018 we have warned the Jayapura government to be careful of flash flood risks because of this deforestation,” he added.

Arts and Entertainment

Life & Style

Fiction Park

Remembering a rebellious girl

Ujwol Shrestha, Apr 21 2019
 As I said this in a soft spoken voice, tears rolled down her rosy cheeks. With gentle affection I caressed her hair. She stopped crying. For almost twenty minutes, we just sat there in silence staring at  the cat. No words. Sometimes words are unnecessary if the feelings are genuine. And my feelings were genuine. For all her stubbornness and rebellious manners, I had a profound affection for Tibrata. I knew she was a lonely girl and was yearning for love and affection.
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