Constitution of Nepal

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Nepal is governed according to the Constitution of Nepal, which came into effect on September 20, 2015, replacing the Interim Constitution of 2007. The Constitution was drafted by the Second Constituent Assembly following the failure of the First Constituent Assembly to produce a constitution in its mandated period.[1] The constitution was endorsed by over 84% of the total lawmakers. Out of 598 CA members, 507 voted in favor of the constitution while 25 voted against and 66 others did not take part in the election process. [2]

Nepal Constituent Assembly[edit]

Abhaya Subba in local protest program.jpg

The Interim Constitution provides for a Constituent Assembly, which was charged with writing Nepal's permanent constitution. Under the terms of the Interim Constitution, the new constitution was to be promulgated by May 28, 2010, but the Constituent Assembly postponed the promulgation by a year because of disagreements. On May 25, 2011, the Supreme Court of Nepal ruled that the 2010 extension of the Interim Constitution was not right. Since May 29, 2011 the Constituent Assembly repeatedly extended the Interim Constitution.

On May 28, 2012, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved after it failed to finish the constitution after the latest extension, ending four years of constitution drafting and leaving the country in a legal vacuum.[3][4] New elections were held on November 19, 2013 to the Second Nepalese Constituent Assembly and political leaders pledged to draft a new constitution within a year.[5][dated info]. The new assembly expressly committed that the new constitution would be promulgated on January 22, 2015. However, due to continued differences on key issues including system of governance, judicial system and federation issues like number, name and areas of the states to be carved, the constitution could not be finalized and promulgated in time.

Comparison with Constitution of India[edit]

The constitution is largely written in gender neutral term. Some of the important aspects of the constitution include the following:

  • Rights of gender and sexual minorities are protected by the new constitution with provisions of special laws to protect, empower and develop minority groups as well as allowing them to get citizenship in their chosen gender. In contrast, same-sex relationship is a crime in India under Section 377 of the Penal Code, which awards punishment of “imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.” The Supreme Court in 2013 upheld Section 377 but left it to the wisdom of the parliament to decide whether to retain or repeal the draconian law. [6]
  • Recognizing the rights of women, the constitution of Nepal explicitly states that “women shall have equal ancestral right without any gender-based discrimination.” India has yet to introduce a similar right for women from all faiths. Moreover, ancestral property rights for women are not a fundamental right in India. [7]
  • Nepal also has become the second country after Bhutan in South Asia to abolish the death penalty. The Supreme Court of India in the past has accepted the fact that on various occasions innocent people have been executed. [8]
  • Under the new constitution, victims of environmental pollution or degradation in Nepal now have the fundamental right to receive compensation from the polluter. In India the “right to a clean environment” is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, but the Supreme Court has interpreted it be included under the right to life. However, unlike Nepal, the victims of environmental pollution or degradation in India are not entitled to any compensation as a fundamental right. The state may impose a penalty on polluters but this does not necessarily mean that the affected will be compensated. [9]

Previous Constitutions[edit]

Previous constitutions of Nepal were enacted in 1948, 1951, 1959, 1962, 1990 and 2007.[10]

In 1948, the Government of Nepal Act was enacted. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the country had been a monarchy where the prime ministers, from the Rana dynasty, had sweeping control over the affairs of the state.[11] The 1948 document introduced limited democratic elements, but the experiment was not successful due to the misgivings of the Rana rulers to give away power.[12]

The Interim Government of Nepal Act 1951 was promulgated after the Revolution of 1951 that the end of the Rana period.[13] This text strengthened the authority of the king, and introduced relevant reforms such as the creation of the Supreme Court and the inclusion of fundamental rights and socio-economic goals to be pursued by the state.[14]

The CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF NEPAL, 1959 followed the previously mentioned interim text. Interestingly, despite the establishment of a bicameral parliament, the king continued to hold important powers such as the prerogative to appoint half of the members of the Senate and the suspension of parliament under certain circumstances.[15]

The democratic experiment was short-lived, as in 1962 a new constitution came in to eliminate political parties, and to introduce the so-called panchayat system. In this model, panchayats were councils organized at the local level, presumably to ensure the representation of citizens. However, the king exercised much stronger authority than in the 1959 regime. and could modify the constitution or suspend it in case of emergency.[16]

In 1990, the first Jana Andolan, Popular Revolt, brought multi-party democracy back to Nepal. The CONSTITUTION. OF THE KINGDOM OF NEPAL(1990) lifted the ban on political parties, described a democratic representative system where the authority of the king was curtailed, and enshrined fundamental rights.[17] Although the 1990 constitution substantially increased the democratic character of the state in comparison with the Panchayat Regime, critiques have argued that this text did not adequately represent all sectors of society, even though Nepal is a multi-cultural country where diverse social groups coexist [18]

Again following the 2006 democracy movement in Nepal, Interim Constitution was promulgated in 2007.

Controversy over 2015 Constitution[edit]

The promulgation of the new constitution was immediately followed by virtual blockade of all checkpoints at Nepal-India border. Various Human Rights Activists and some ethnic groups in lowland Nepal have accused the Constitution of being gender discriminatory especially in regards to citizenship provisions. They allege new constitution makes it difficult for woman to pass on citizenship to their children as compared to men. [19]

Similarly, Madhesi and indigenous population view that the new constitution fails to address demands of marginalized communities and support status-quo of the ruling groups. They are protesting mainly over the federal delineation of new states as proposed in the constitution fearing existing demarcation could affect their political representation. [20] [21] With the protest ongoing since August 15, 2015 or earlier, at least 45 people, including 8 security personals and one Indian National, have been killed. Human Rights Watch has criticized the Nepal Government as well as the protesters for violation of human rights during the protest. [22] [23] Additionally, there is controversy over Nepalese citizenship rules, which Nepal deems to protect the state from being overwhelmed by Indian immigrants, and which India claims discriminates against Madhesis of Indian origins, the draft constitution and final constitution that passed differ on this issue.

Citizen Provisions in Constitution of Nepal 2015[edit]

The conditions to be fulfilled to be a Nepalese Citizen are outlined below (Copied from Section 11, Part 2, Constitution of Nepal, 2015)(final) [24]

(1) The persons who have acquired citizenship of Nepal at the commencement of this Constitution and the persons who are eligible to acquire citizenship of Nepal under this Part shall be deemed to be the citizens of Nepal.

(2) The following persons who have their permanent domicile in Nepal shall be deemed to be citizens of Nepal by descent:-

(a) A person who has acquired the citizenship of Nepal by descent before the commencement of this constitution.

(b) Any person whose father or mother was a citizen of Nepal at the birth of such a person.

(3) A child of a citizen who has acquired citizenship of Nepal by birth before the commencement of this Constitution shall, if his/her father and mother both are the citizens of Nepal, shall be entitled to Nepali citizenship by descent upon his/her attaining the age of majority.

(4) Every child found in Nepal whereabouts of whose paternity and maternity is not known shall, until the mother or father is traced, be deemed a citizen of Nepal by descent.

(5) A person born to a Nepali citizen mother and having his/her domicile in Nepal but whose father is not traced, shall be conferred the Nepali citizenship by descent.

Provided that in case his/her father is found to be a foreigner, the citizenship of such a person shall be converted to naturalized citizenship according to the Federal law.

(6) If a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen so wishes, she may acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal as provided for in a Federal law.

(7) Notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in this Article, in case of a person born to Nepali woman citizen married to a foreign citizen, he/she may acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal as provided for by a Federal law if he/she is having the permanent domicile in Nepal and he/she has not acquired citizenship of the foreign country.

Provided that if his/her father and mother both are the citizen of Nepal at the time of acquisition of the citizenship, he/she, if born in Nepal, may acquire citizenship by descent.

(8) Except provided for in this Article, Government of Nepal may confer naturalized citizenship of Nepal according to Federal law.

(9) Government of Nepal may confer honorary citizenship according to Federal law.

(10) In case any area is annexed into Nepal by merger, the persons having domicile in such area shall be citizens of Nepal subject to a Federal law.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Time Magazine "Nepal Has Finally Passed a New Constitution After Years of Political Turmoil". Retrieved September 2015. 
  2. ^ BBC: Constituent Assembly endorses Nepal’s Constitution 2072 with two-thirds majority, to promulgate on Sunday
  3. ^ CA dissolved after epic failure
  4. ^ BBC: Nepal enters crisis mode as constitution talks fail
  5. ^ "Nepal takes step towards new constitution. Political leaders had pledged to draw up constitution within a year as new parliament convenes.". Al Jazeera. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Nepal’s Constitution and Lessons for India". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2015-11-23. 
  7. ^ "Nepal’s Constitution and Lessons for India". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2015-11-23. 
  8. ^ "Nepal’s Constitution and Lessons for India". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2015-11-23. 
  9. ^ "Nepal’s Constitution and Lessons for India". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2015-11-23. 
  10. ^ International Constitutional Law -- Nepal
  12. ^;
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Krishna Hacchethu, The Second Transformation of Nepali Political Parties, in NEPAL: NEW FRONTIERS OF RESTRUCTURING OF STATE 125 (Lok Raj Baral ed., 2008); Tulsi Ram Pandey, Social Change and Political Participation, in NEPAL: QUEST FOR PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY 90 (Lok Raj Baral ed., 2006).
  18. ^ Mahendra Lawoti, Constitution as Sources of Exclusion: An Overview of the 1990 Constitution, in DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION MAKING: EXPERIENCES FROM NEPAL, KENYA, SOUTH AFRICA AND SRI LANKA 11 (Hari P. Bhattarai & Jhalak Subedi eds., 2007)
  19. ^ Citizenship provisions discriminate against women
  20. ^ Tarai unrest
  21. ^ The Madhesi Movement: Prospects for Peace in Nepal
  22. ^ Tarai protest killings: HRW urges govt to book culprits
  23. ^ “Like We Are Not Nepali”
  24. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]