City Nepali law expert comments on new constitution
Dr Mara Malagodi, a Lecturer in The City Law School, appeared on 20th September as a panellist on the Al Jazeera English (AJE) news channel's programme, Inside Story.
Dr Malagodi has been researching comparative constitutional law and politics in South Asia for fifteen years, with a particular focus on Nepal. She is also the author of a monograph titled Constitutional Nationalism and Legal Exclusion in Nepal (Oxford University Press, 2013). After nine years of preparation, Nepal promulgated its seventh constitution on 20th September. The new constitution is expected to bring the country’s peace process to a close - a process which began in 2006 after a decade-long Maoist insurgency. It is the first constitution in that country to have been framed by a directly elected Constituent Assembly. “When the peace agreement was inked in November 2006, Nepali political leaders vowed to craft a broadly inclusive document embracing Nepal’s profound socio-cultural diversity”, says Dr Malagodi.
“The peace process’ mantra of ‘nayā Nepāl banāune’ (building new Nepal) was centred on the inclusion of the country’s many marginalised groups through radical constitutional reform. The process of constitution-making was a long and embattled one wherein the main points of contention have been federal restructuring, the form of government to be adopted, the provisions regarding citizenship, and the position of Hinduism vis-à-vis secularism.”
Despite efforts by the document’s drafters to be inclusive, total unanimity and the quest for political stability, have so far been elusive.
Dr Malagodi draws attention to areas of dissatisfaction with the new constitution:
“Since 30 June, when the Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman K.P. Sitaula submitted to the Assembly the draft constitution devoid of federal demarcation for the House to begin deliberations on the text, protests erupted throughout Nepal. Protests grew increasingly violent in the Terai, where the demands for federalism and equal citizenship have been historically the strongest, while the security forces’ response became heavy handed. Lawmakers, however, pressed on and promulgated the document regardless of the tense political climate and the dissatisfaction with many of its features such as federal demarcation of the units; the removal of the adjective ‘secular’ from the Preamble; the highly discriminatory citizenship provisions under which citizenship cannot be passed by Nepali mothers alone; and a number of restrictions on fundamental rights.”
To see the full edition of AJE’s Inside Story featuring Dr Malagodi, please visit this website.
A Constituent Assembly is an assembly of representatives who have been chosen to debate and draft a constitution for a newly created state or to radically alter an existing constitution.