Nepal's human rights body and parliament conflict over jurisprudence

NHRC under House scanner

House panel slams NHRC response


National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has come under the scanner of a House committee for “challenging” the latter’s jurisdiction to grill the Commission.

The Parliamentary Committee on International Relations and Human Rights had summoned NHRC commissioners for discussion on Tuesday to inquire about anomalies reported in the organisation, among others.

NHRC, however, responded negatively to the Committee, stating that it could not grill an autonomous constitutional body (NHRC) on any of its internal issues.

In its letter dated March 17, NHRC responded that the Committee could not make any issue related to NHRC administration an agenda for discussion. “Any issue or problem related to the functioning and internal management of NHRC are matters under the Commission’s autonomy as per the NHRC Act, Regulations and the Interim Constitution,” stated NHRC Chairman Kedarnath Upadhyaya in the letter. “I, therefore, inform that we have decided to request you not to bring these issues into the Committee’s discussion.”

The Committee took the NHRC response “seriously” and concluded that it was a “direct contempt” of the entire parliament. “The letter is a direct contempt of the Committee and the House,” said Committee Chairman and Maoist lawmaker Padma Lal B.K. “NHRC put a question mark on our jurisdiction.” He said
NHRC was summoned for discussion on the request of two NHRC members, who claimed there were a number of anomalies in the organisation’s management. There were reports in the media a month ago that NHRC members misused funds while purchasing vehicles.

The Committee on Tuesday sent a second letter asking the Commission to present its written clarification on the “offensive letter” at the next meeting on April 2.

Five days after its letter drew criticism from the parliamentary committee, NHRC dispatched another letter informing it would not be able to attend the meeting till April 2.

“We will wait till April 2 for clarification and if the
NHRC does not respond, we will initiate impeachment proceedings,” said B.K.

Law experts say the House committee has authority to grill N
HRC as it is accountable to the parliament. “As per Article 56 (3), 105 (2) and 131(4) of the Interim Constitution, NHRC’s defiance is already sufficient for initiating impeachment proceedings,” said Advocate Madhav Gautam.

Article 56 (4) states that “no comment shall be made about the good faith of any proceedings of parliament,” while article 105 (2) and 131 (4) say NHRC members could be impeached.


NHRC chief lays down the law


Stoking the controversy over jurisdiction and autonomy of parliamentary and constitutional bodies, National Human Rights Commission (
NHRC) Chairman Kedar Nath Upadhyaya on Wednesday termed the House committee’s attempt to grill NHRC on its internal management an “intervention” resulting from misinterpretation of laws.

NHRC chairman’s statement came in response to the decision of the Parliamentary Committee on International Relations and Human Rights to grill the Commission’s top brass on alleged financial irregularities. The statement also answers the House panel, which labelled the NHRC chair’s March 17 letter challenging the committee’s jurisdiction as “offensive”.

After some disgruntled members of the national rights body complained of irregularities in the purchase of vehicles, the committee had sent a letter inviting NHRC for discussion on Tuesday, but the meeting was postponed to April 2 after
NHRC informed it wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting.

“The House committee cannot inquire on our day-to-day administrative activities as these are internal matters of an autonomous constitutional body,” said Upadhyaya. “What it can inquire about is our human rights promotion activities, which we present through the president in the form of annual reports.”

On the alleged financial irregularities, Upadhaya said the commission’s internal audit had shown no anomalies and the external audit would soon present its report. Besides, he said, there is the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (
CIAA) to look into financial irregularities.

Upadhyaya also said the commission was not intimidated by the committee’s “warning” that it would initiate impeachment proceedings against the
NHRC board. Chairman of the parliamentary committee Padam Lal B.K. had said on Tuesday that impeachment could be an option if NHRC continued to defy the committee’s jurisdiction.

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