Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
An active monarchy isn’t unconstitutional

One day after King Gyanendra issued a 10-point instruction to the government for the welfare of the people of the far and mid-western regions on 1 March, the three major political parties reportedly dubbed the king's move as additional evidence of an active monarchy. A search has become necessary for a fair and widely acceptable argument that would answer these questions: Is the king active or not? Should he be active or not? Does the constitution stop the king from being active?

It is also necessary to use the pronouncements of the Nepali Congress, Nepali Congress (Democratic), UML and Nepal Sadbhabana Party about what is constitutional. A UML leader has charged the king with speaking "sugarcoated words" while throttling democracy. He also claimed that the constitution does not prohibit talking, debating and sloganeering of republicanism.

If he based his claim on his party's manifesto, he must understand that his party's rules are not applicable to other parties and citizens at large. We don't expect our children in colleges and universities to get brainwashed by the manifestoes of Maoists and the UML. We cannot give those parties such freedom. The constitution has clearly banned sloganeering of republicanism.

The letter and spirit of the constitution does not stop the king from being active. The words have eroded and the meanings have changed because of the attitude and behaviour of politicians. It is they who ushered in vices like financial irregularities, horse-trading of the members of parliament, vulgar activities that give a bad twist to the words in the constitution.

If the king interferes in the good work of the people's representatives, if he snatches the rights of the poor for the benefit of those in the palace and if he does not become sensitive for the safety of the people, then definitely he can be called a tyrant and autocrat. But why shouldn't the king be even allowed to feel for the people suffering as a result of bad governance over the years? After looking at the preamble of the constitution, the leaders must understand that they prepared the constitution as the "king's tillers", to borrow Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa's words. The king is the patron of the constitution. Article 27 (3) of the constitution says that the king, and not the parliament, is the guardian of the constitution. The same article does not allow a referendum. To assert his point that as a prime minister he should be allowed to dissolve parliament, Sher Bahadur Deuba had once argued citing Article 31 of the constitution that the king's decision could not be challenged. Now that he is out of power, his party is engaged in an anti-king movement.

Nine years ago, the supreme commander of the 1990 "People's Movement" Ganesh Man Singh and CPN (UML) leader Man Mohan Adhikari had opined that the king should have rejected then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's recommendation to dissolve the parliament. Did Sher Bahadur Deuba, who dissolved parliament during the state of emergency saying that he would hold elections but failed to do so, abide by the constitution?

These are the questions the constitution drafters, most of whom are currently engaged in anti-king agitation, need to answer: Why was the king given the executive power in article 35 (1) of the constitution? Why was the king, through article 36 (5) authorised to sack the prime minister even after a vote of no-confidence against the premier is passed?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)