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Nepal: New Constitution Amended

(Jan. 27, 2016) By a two-thirds vote on January 23, 2016, the Parliament of Nepal accepted an amendment of the country’s new Constitution. The Constitution had been adopted just a few months ago, in September 2015. (Nepal Parliament Amends New Constitution, INDIA.COM (Jan. 24, 2016); Wendy Zeldin, Nepal: New Constitution Approved, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 1, 2015); Constitution Bill of Nepal 2015: Revised Draft, INSECONLINE.ORG; Constitution of Nepal – Final, Legislature Parliament of Nepal website (last visited Jan. 26, 2016) (in Nepali) (click on PDF link to view).)

The amendment was designed to help resolve the issues raised by the minority Madhesi community, comprising people living in southern Nepal who share cultural and family ties with India. They had demanded a new demarcation of provinces, proportionate representation, and allocation of seats in the legislature based on population. The Constitution as adopted in 2015 had a federal structure of six provinces, which the Madhesis felt did not meet their needs for representation. Articles 42, 84, and 286 of the 2015 Constitution were amended by the recent legislative action. (Nepal Parliament Amends New Constitution, supra.) According to the draft English translation of the Constitution, these articles covered social justice issues (specifically naming the Madhesis among other groups), the composition of the legislature, and parliamentary hearings on high-level judicial appointments, respectively. (Constitution Bill of Nepal 2015: Revised Draft.) The number of parliamentary seats from the 20 districts in the southern region of the country has now been increased. The government has said that these changes should meet the Madesi requests on proportionate representation and allocation of legislative seats. (Nepal Parliament Amends New Constitution, supra.)

The members of the Parliament from the political parties representing the Madhesi boycotted the amendment vote, calling its revised provisions inadequate. (Id.) A leader of one Madhesi political party, Upendra Yadav of the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, labeled the constitutional revision “unilateral” and not acceptable to the Madhesi parties. Yadav added that the government had not opened a serious dialogue. (Rastriya Samachar Samiti, Unilateral Amendment Unacceptable: Upendra Yadav, HIMALAYAN TIMES (Jan. 26, 2016).)