The newly-elected leadership is in place at the Nepal Bar Association (NBA). These new officers have come in at a critical juncture in the transitional period and will have a major-but not always easy-role to play in the days ahead. The job ahead for the NBA now is to create an independent and efficient judiciary, provide vital support for the constituent assembly election, and uphold human rights.
Lawyers can play a special role in helping create a legislature that, by including representatives of all zones, classes, languages, and gender, promotes a competitive, decentralised, and inclusive political system.
Despite the new political environment, human rights remain a vulnerable issue. The association has to be vigilant that Nepal follows all UN human rights agreements and respects all the international conventions to which we are party. It is the responsibility of everyone in the legal profession to remain unbiased, and the challenge before the NBA is to ensure that no individual's right to freedom is violated or encroached upon.
One of the most daunting tasks ahead for the association is to make the judiciary genuinely independent and efficient. A judiciary that is independent, efficient, and not directed, can protect the rights of citizens and help steer the country in the right direction when faced with a political dilemma. The association also needs to be represented at the judicial council when judges are nominated, as the relationship between the bar and the bench must be cordial, and law professionals duly recognised as officers of the court.
Other tasks the NBA will have to do justice to include protecting the professional integrity of law professionals and producing efficient manpower. The association needs to include women, janajatis, and new law professionals.
In order to meet these various and important challenges, the association needs to evolve, just as Nepal itself is changing and reconstructing itself. There will be considerable negative consequences if the NBA cannot reinvent itself. It needs to advocate the rights of madhesi, janajati, and women lawyers. Regular trainings and seminars need to be offered so they can hone their skills, the welfare fund needs to be augmented and made to function better, and the human rights and women's interest sections should be more efficient so there is proportional representation.
By producing efficient law professionals, the NBA can expand the salubrious influence of the legal field. For example, the association can play an important role in developing and implementing laws relating to intellectual property, meeting the legal challenges put forward by international conferences, and training legal manpower which can compete with international law professionals.
Sabita Bhandari Baral is an advocate and the new treasurer of the Nepal Bar Association.
(A version of this article appeared in Himal Khabarpatrika, 30 January.)