4 Apr 2002
Orders to relax emergency restrictions issued
By Surendra Phuyal
KATHMANDU, April 4:Hours after King Gyanendra approved orders to relax the state of emergency, the Lower House of parliament on Thursday passed with a simple majority a controversial Bill aimed at curbing terrorism and controlling disruptive activities in the country.
The Thursdays sitting of the House of Representatives passed the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (control and punishment) Bill, which was first introduced as a Royal Ordinance at the time of declaring the state of emergency in the country on November 26, 2001.
Later in the day, the Bill was tabled in the Upper House, the National Assembly, which is expected to pass it on Friday and send it to the palace for Royal assent. The Ordinance-turned-Bill is required to obtain the Royal assent by April 9.
"Because the majority of lawmakers voted "Yea", I declare that the Bill has been passed," Deputy Speaker of the House, Chitra Lekha Yadav, said after the voting was over.
Among other things, the Bill authorises security forces to arrest people without warrant, and provisions a maximum penalty of life imprisonment with seizure of all property for those involved in terrorist and destructive activities.
The Bill proposes a special anti-terrorism court to deal with cases related to terrorism charges. As per the provisions in the Bill, a monitoring committee headed by a retired justice will look into the grievances of the general public. It will remain valid for two years.
All lawmakers of the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) party voted for the Bill. But lawmakers of the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), the National Peoples Front (NPF), the United Peoples Front (UPF) and the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP) voted against the Bill.
While lawmakers of the NPF, the UPF and the NWPP pronounced their verbal "Nay" votes branding the Bill "black law", most of the UML lawmakers walked out of the House, although they were present during the discussions on the Bill earlier. Only about a dozen UML lawmakers were present during the voting.
Earlier, partaking in the discussions, UML lawmakers maintained that they were present in the House only to welcome the orders to relax the state of emergency. Early in the morning today, the state-owned Radio Nepal announced the government orders to relax emergency, which was sent by the Royal Palacewith some amendments.
The orders allow political parties to hold public meetings, but that should not directly or indirectly help the terrorists campaign and requires permission from the respective District Administration Officer. It also allows the publication or transmission of news-reports, articles or commentaries, but that, again, should not aid terrorism.
The five-point orders also provides for the permanent or temporary transfer or appointment of civil servants in the Kingdom; and it allows public criticism of the security forces, but that should not de-moralise the security forces in any way.
The issuance of the orders to better-manage the state of emergency, as per Article 115 (7) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, was one of the two preconditions put forth by the UML while ratifying emergency on February 21. The other pre-condition, which so far has not been met and is still under debate, is the amendment to the 12-year-old constitution.
CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal was quick to comment on the orders. He said in the House of Representatives Thursday, "The orders discourages comments that could demoralise the security forces. What does it mean? It has to be clearly elaborated."
Echoing the sentiment of Minister for Physical Planning and Works, Chiranjiwi Wagle, who is holding the portfolio of Home Ministry in the absence of Khum Bahadur Khadka, UML lawmaker Pradip Kumar Gyawali, said earlier that the entire House was shocked to have "such a Bill to vote for".
"Law is just a tool to fight terror," he said, emphasising the need to have provisions to pardon those forced into such terror networks.
Lawmaker of the RPP, Netra Lal Shrestha called for an end to tendencies that aims to fight terror with harsh laws. Rather, he said, "terror should be fought by cleansing attitudes and behaviours."
"This is a black law," the NPF leader Chitra Bahadur KC said, urging political parties not to vote for it, "for it will ultimately affect each one of us here. Passing it is just like hitting our own legs with the (proverbial) axe."
Leader of the NWPP, Narayan Man Bijukchhe said the Bill has infringed upon the fundamental rights of the people, and that "the situation has turned worse than that of the pre-1990 autocratic Panchayat era".
Most importantly, he said, "the countrys women folks will bear the brunt of the Bill as the possibility of the security forces misbehaving and even harassing them remains extremely high."
A vocal critic of the Bill and the former comrade-in-arms of the Maoist leaders, lawmaker Lila Mani Pokharel of the UPF, however, could not make it to his bench in the opposition row when the Speaker called his name to partake in the discussion. He turned up a bit late only to say "Nay" in loud voice every time the Speaker told parliamentarians to say "Yea or Nay".