Facilitate rule of law, not rule of government
Dr Vijay Srivastava and Jivesh Jha
“How would you define your country?” Is it the definition everyone understands or do we want them to get a dictionary? Definitions sometimes may sound exhibition of vocabulary size. Moreover dictionaries, be it Oxford English Dictionary or Cambridge or any, may not give you a comprehensive meaning of nouns, like they do in case of verbs.
While defining a country, perhaps dictionaries are not the proper source of information and for that matter a revisit to the fundamental document becomes crucial. Let’s read the Constitutional provisions which sound almost like a tongue-twister.
In this context, the cornerstone has been set by Article 3 of the Constitution of Nepal. As per the provision, Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural country where people from diverse geographical region collectively reside to constitute a nation and they are committed for maintaining the prosperity and sovereignty of the state.
In a bid to give you an added insight, the succeeding clause [i.e., Article 4] envisages that Nepal is an independent, indivisible sovereign, secular, inclusive democratic, socialism-oriented democratic, republican state. The charter offers a broader canvas of ‘State of Nepal’ and you may not witness similar approach taken by any dictionary whatsoever.
In contrast, Article 1 of the Constitution of Afghanistan runs like this “Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.” However, Article 2 of Maldivian charter prescribes that the “Maldives is a sovereign, independent, democratic Republic based on the principles of Islam, and is a unitary State, to be known as the Republic of the Maldives.”
However, your quest of observing a secular definition may come true now.
Article 1 of the Constitution of Bangladesh provides a comprehensive definition of the state where God is notably missing. “Bangladesh is a unitary, independent, sovereign Republic to be known as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,” reads the provision. Still, Article 2A (which does not provide a definition of state) confirms that the official religion of the Republic is Islam.
Similarly, Constitution of India not only describes what India is, but also provides a synonym (of India) which can be taken for both official and unofficial purposes. Article 1 simply says, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” It is to be noted that India is home to 29 states, as per Schedule-I of the Constitution.
Now, you may be eager to know how Pakistan, the arch-rival of India, is explained in their Constitution. “Pakistan shall be Federal Republic to be known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” says Article 1 (1) of its Constitution. Unlike India, the Republic is a federation of four different provinces and they are Balochistan, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab and Sindh.
Like Nepal and India, you might have expected a secular definition of Pakistan. But, to tell you a truth, India and Nepal are exclusively the two states in south Asian region where God is significantly absent throughout the Constitutions and they are pretty secular.
Surprisingly, other SAARC states of Sri Lanka and Bhutan also endow a comprehensive description but without recalling their ‘Buddhist’ identity. Article 1 of the Constitution envisions that Sri Lanka (Ceylon) would be a free, sovereign, independent and democratic socialist republic and the state shall be known as the “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.”
Much like India, the Constitution adopts two names for the state, i.e. Sri Lanka and Ceylon.
Similarly, Article 1 (1) of the Constitution of Bhutan articulates that Bhutan is a Sovereign Kingdom and the Sovereign power belongs to the people of Bhutan.
Now, after going through the Constitutional definitions, would you like to search the definitions of your state in your dictionaries? Hopefully, not!
It’s been often said that the Constitutions and Gods ought to be good to mankind and everything contained therein has a rational backing. The Article providing a Constitutional definition of the state concerned is the dignified part of the Constitution which indicates the pattern of a country’s political society. It would serve as a lamppost for the judiciary or parliament to adopt a logical discourse whenever they feel stuck on a point.
For instance, Article 1 of Indian Constitution simply describes India as a union of states. It seeks to establish India as an exemplary federal republic in world and it says there would be equal respect for all states.
However, the concept of “Islamic Republic” flows in the entire length and breadth of Constitutions of Afghanistan, Maldives, and Pakistan and the same is not true for other South Asian states. So, it [i.e., the Article defining a state] discloses the quality of the Constitution.
Similarly, the Constitution of Nepal shows adherence on “democratic socialism” with an aim of ending poverty, ignorance, diseases and inequalities in terms of opportunity, status and income. The Constitution acknowledges both concepts—democracy and socialism—with an aim of carving Nepal into a “public welfare” state [which is the objective of Directive Principles contained under Part-IV] wherein efforts “shall” be made to prevent the excess of exploitation of natural resources and ensure a free competition without destroying individual initiatives.
In contrast, the expression ‘democratic’ used in the definition stipulates that the fundamental document has established a form of government which gets authority from the people and the starting three magical words “We, the people” (with which the preamble of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal begins) confer the same meaning. In the words of Dr BR Ambedkar, the chief architect of Indian Constitution, the democracy means a government in which the mass of adult population has a share in the government.
What Republic Nepal deserves
The expression ‘republic’ as qualified by the term ‘democratic’ means a republic in which there would be equal respect for all citizens living under the Constitution and every proud citizen deserves a dignified respect and treatment from the state.
Over and above this, Article 4 of the Constitution can be qualitatively divided into three parts, viz., declarative (as it declares Nepal as a Federal Democratic Republic), innovative (as it seeks to revolutionise the state to realise the goals of sovereignty, inclusiveness, secularism, or democracy) and assertive (as it makes a pledge of maintaining the identity of the state, i.e., Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal).
The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal deserves a clear departure from inequalities, oppression, discrimination and exploitation. It seeks to envisage a society having economic democracy (i.e., a democratic set up where the national population merits no discrimination along the economic lines), decent standard of living, and rule of law. In democracy, voters are the masters. So, the attempts should be made to ensure the uplift of the common of Nepal.
It’s high time to learn that observing “Republic Day” every year would be of a little value unless we succeed to erect Nepal on a strong pitch of democracy, rule of law, socialism and development.
Dr Srivastava is Assistant Professor of Law at Uttaranchal University, Dehradun and Mr Jha is student of LL.M (Constitutional Law) at Uttaranchal University.
Published on May 29, 2018