KATHMANDU, May 20: An overwhelming majority of parliament at its meeting on Saturday passed the government bill to amend Article 70 of the Interim Constitution to pave the way for fast-tracking the endorsement of the final draft of the new constitution.
Of the 536 members who cast their votes, 533 voted for the bill and only three members voted against. Altogether 536 members of parliament, whose full membership is 601, were present during the voting.
The political parties decided to amend the relevent provision as it was practically impossible to follow the constitutional procedures for endorsing the final draft of the new constitution within the Constituent Assembly (CA) deadline of May 27.
As per the amended provision of Article 70, the CA could not put the bill on the new constitution to a vote in the full CA without first allowing 22 days for the leaders of political parties to forge consensus on contentious issues. This provision could be invoked for an indefinite number of times even if a single lawmaker so demanded.
The provision required that each and every article of the new constitution bill be endorsed by two-thirds of the full CA meeting attended by at least by two-thirds of the full CA membership of 601.
Under the new provision, the new constitution must be endorsed in its entirety by a two-thirds majority of a full sitting of the CA in its existing strength through a single motion.
The new amendment has added a provision that says that at least two-thirds of the existing total strength of the CA must vote to endorse the new constitution bill in its entirety whereas the previous version of the article allowed endorsement of the bill only by a two-thirds vote of a meeting attended by at least two-thirds of the statuatory total strength of the 601-seat CA. As per the new constitutional provision, a CA meeting convened to endorse the final draft of the new constitution is to be attended by two-thirds of the existing total strength of 594 members.
Nepali Congress (NC) lawmaker Ramesh Lekhak questioned the government why it chose to add the new provision without clearly explaining the reason for it.
Other lawmakers from various political parties, who also aired their views at the meeting, said they were compelled to vote for the amendment bill as there was no alternative to promulgating the new constitution by May 27 although that would curtail the lawmakers´ right to fully participate in the constitution making process.
With the 12th amendment of the Interim Constitution, the chances of promulgating the new constitution by May 27 have increased provided the party leaders succeed in settling the major contentious issues over the new constitution.republica