How does India affect the new constitution of Nepal - the information portal on South Asia

Nepal's political system is characterized by the interaction of royalty and parliamentary democracy. The constitution, which the then King Birendra signed after decades of sole rule in the autumn of 1990 under pressure from the democracy movement, however, did not lead to a real democratization of society. The members of the high Hindu castes still control the few income opportunities. Women, caste-less people and members of the minorities with hardly any Hinduism - Buddhist circles or interest groups have a greater influence than the information on official religious affiliation attempt to convey - have little chance of political and economic participation in South Asian comparison.

With an average per capita income of less than € 250 per year, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. 80 percent of the 24 million inhabitants make a living from agriculture. While a tenth of the population controls half of the land, half of Nepalis share seven percent of the land. Debt bondage is widespread, with many families at the mercy of their landlords for centuries. It was only in 2000 that the government declared so-called "bonded labor" to be illegal, but without taking any actual steps to abolish it. Corruption is ubiquitous.

Most affected by poverty and underdevelopment is the west of the country, from where the rebellious Maoists operate and have been waging a "people's war" against the country's political leadership since 1996.


The constitution, which was valid until 1990, contained the following sentence: "The sovereignty of Nepal rests with His Majesty, and all power - executive, legislative and judicial - rests from him".

The king's claim to rule is based on a religiously founded legitimation - he is generally regarded as the incarnation of Vishnu - even if the Himalayan land has been a constitutional monarchy for more than a decade. Even today parliamentary debates about the person of the king or the family of the monarch are forbidden.

13 years after the parliamentarization of the political system, the king still has immense power. The king continues to be part of the executive: all tax laws and laws affecting the army or the police require his approval before they are introduced into parliament. He appoints the army commander in chief who is responsible to him. He can refuse to sign bills passed in parliament, but parliament can override the king's veto by passing them again. The monarch himself is the formal head of the army, and appoints the commander-in-chief of the army (Chief of Army Staff) who is responsible for him.

The monarchy was shaken to its foundations by the massacre of the royal family on June 1, 2001. According to official information, the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Dipendra, shot almost his entire family and himself out of lovesickness. After Gyanendra, brother of the murdered Birendra, was crowned, the monarchy still seems to be the guarantor of the unity of the country, which is made up of diverse ethnic groups and remains firmly anchored in the majority of the population. The Maoist insurgents demand their abolition and the conversion of the country into a communist people's republic.

At the end of November 2001, the Maoists broke a six-month ceasefire, immediately after which parliament declared a state of emergency. Since then, the army has been used to fight insurgency, and civil rights have been severely curtailed with the enactment of an anti-terrorism ordinance (since April 2002: law). On May 22, 2002, at the request of the Prime Minister, to whom a majority of MPs refused to extend the state of emergency, the King dissolved the National Assembly. On October 4, 2002, the king dismissed the controversial prime minister and appointed a non-party-bound "interim government", which is largely unconstitutional. There is no doubt that the monarch wields significantly more power than the constitution provides.


According to the constitution, the power of the king as a formal head of state is limited to representative functions. The executive power center is the Council of Ministers, chaired by the Prime Minister. The parliamentary government responsibility (based on the English Westminster model and India) stipulates that the ministers must be members of one of the two houses of parliament, or achieve this status six months after their appointment through by-election or nomination. The Council of Ministers is the lower house Pratinidhi Sabha collectively responsible to and governs in the name of the king.

It is customary and envisaged that the leader of the strongest faction of the Pratinidhi Sabha is commissioned by the king to form a government.

Legislature and elections

The legislature consists of two houses, the House of Representatives - Pratinidhi Sabha) and the House of Lords (National Assembly - Rastriya Sabha). The Pratinidhi Sabha consists of 205 members who are to be elected every five years in general, direct, free and secret elections based on majority voting. The minimum voting age is 18 years. In parliamentary elections, the parties have to put forward 5 percent of the candidates; three seats are reserved for women in the upper house.

The Rastriya Sabha consists of 60 members of parliament, one third of whom are elected or nominated for six years every two years. 35 members are elected in the House of Representatives, ten are appointed by the king and three each are sent from the five developing regions. In legislation, the Pratinidhi Sabha with an absolute majority of all MPs against objections of the Rastriya Sabha push through.

Political representatives at the local level are elected directly by the population every five years. These representatives then elect the district-level representatives from among their ranks. The regulations on local self-government did not come into force until the beginning of 2000. The legal basis is that Local Self-Governance Act from 1999.

The Pratinidhi Sabha House of Commons and the local councils have been dissolved since early summer 2002.


The constitution provides for a three-tier structure of the courts. At the top of the system of national courts is the Supreme Court (Sarvocha Adalat), subordinate to it are the 75 District Courts and Appellate Courts. In several districts, mainly in the west of the country, no jurisdiction is currently available.

The legal system was reformed and strengthened by the 1990 Constitution. The importance of fundamental rights has increased due to the significantly upgraded position of the courts. The Supreme Court is based on British-Indian legal tradition Common law and Nepalese tradition, supreme court of appeal and appeal. Observers (Conrad, 1993: 26) see the rule on popular lawsuits with their express reference to the public interest as a reform of the Supreme Court, which implies an adoption of Indian jurisdiction with their public interest litigation (Complaint by a person who is not subjectively affected in the interest of the public). As a result, the Supreme Court of Nepal has been given an important opportunity to exert influence on the legal and constitutional rulings.

The 15 top judges are appointed for life (i.e. until they reach the age of 65) by the king, who follows the recommendations of the Judical Council is bound. Removal from office is only possible after a judge's suit and with a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.

The 242 nationwide judges are also appointed by the Judicial Council certainly. According to Article 93 of the Constitution, this council consists of the head of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, two of the senior judges of this Supreme Court and a "distinguished legal scholar" to be appointed by the king. The council also regulates transfers, disciplinary proceedings and possible impeachment through its recommendations.

Despite the widespread belief that an independent judiciary is the key to the rule of law and democracy, the judiciary accounts for just 0.03 percent of the state's annual budget. Its condition is accordingly. At the same time, the Supreme Court is also increasingly concerned with political decisions. Survived in early February 2001 Chief Justice Keshab Prasad Upadhyay, only with luck, launched a Maoist attack.

As in Europe and neighboring India, prosecution of the dangers of terrorism is increasingly being withdrawn from judicial control. The one issued in November 2001 Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADO) legitimizes armed violence in almost every "fight against terrorism". The reservoir of spongy catch-all elements in security laws from the time of the absolute monarchy is also increasingly being used again.

Administrative structure

After the country was not divided into regions until the beginning of its opening to the outside world in the 1950s and 1960s - partly due to a lack of knowledge of the country but also to poor or lacking modern infrastructure - so-called development corridors were designed by the authorities at that time.

To subdivide these development regions, several axes were required that connect the lowlands, Terai, to the high mountains via the middle mountain range. The routes were defined as the boundaries of the developing regions. The Eastern, Central, Western, Mid-Western and Far-Western Development Regions each have their own development center. Each of these development regions is again subdivided into a terai, a mountainous region and a mountainous sub-region. However, these 15 zones in total are only relevant for the vehicle license plates. The districts are now of almost exclusive importance: 16 are in the Himalayan region, 39 in the middle mountain region and 20 in the Terai. In these 75 districts there are almost 4,000 village development committees (VDC) or urban areas (municipalities). To be classified as a city, a population of more than 20,000 and a certain basic infrastructure are required. The VDC are in turn divided into nine so-called wards; in the case of cities, their number depends on the total population.


The first democratic attempts in the 1950s were followed by 30 years under the non-party Panchayat system. A multi-party system was only introduced in Nepal in 1990. But even at the time of this Panchayat system, parties were active in exile and underground. The panchayat system was intended to promote decentralized development in the country, but also served to eliminate all political organizations such as parties and trade unions.

Although today all major parties have election programs, only in exceptional cases can we speak of program parties in the western sense. The vast majority are "client parties" led by charismatic personalities. Because of this personal relationship, the party landscape is constantly on the move. Frequent changes of government and unstable coalitions between the three big parties NC, CPN-UML and RPP as well as an increasing propensity for violence and shifting of the political conflict to the streets characterize the development. All parties are also characterized by internal divisions, which are usually not based on ideological aspects but on the personal strivings of party leaders. Many of the expectations of the democracy movement in 1990 remained unfulfilled. Public confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the mainstream parties is diminishing.

The oldest and still the largest party is the Nepali Congress (NC), which was founded in exile in India in the 1940s. Together with the United Left Front, an alliance of 7 left-wing parties, the NC was the main supporter of the democracy movement in 1990. The - almost exclusively Brahmin - leadership around the chairman and longtime Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala managed to take center stage as the center party during the twelve years of democracy to establish a widespread patronage network. The Congress Party had been represented in various government coalitions since 1990 and held onto its power even with a weak minority government. Since 1999, the NC has had an absolute majority with 111 members. Above all, the often seemingly chaotic power tussle in the governing body Nepali Congress is increasingly discrediting Nepal’s democracy. After the internal party conflict escalated, the NC split in May 2002 between supporters around Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and G.P. Koirala.

The communist parties are the main opposition. The Communist Party was also founded in exile in India at the end of the 1940s, but has since split into numerous sub-groups. The most important is the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) or CPN-UML. The CPN-UML received 70 seats in the 1999 Pratinidhi Sabha elections. In February 2002 the CPN-UML was reunited with the CPN-ML, which had split off from it four years earlier.

As early as 1995, the anti-parliamentary Maoist wing had definitively split off from the mother party. The Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-Maoist) has been organizing the uprising underground since February 1996. The Maoist National United People's Front (NUPF) won five seats in 1999 and three other Maoist parties one seat each.

The third strongest force in parliament was the conservative Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) or National Democratic Party (NDP). It established itself as a party of supporters of the old Panchayat system and unites the monarchists in the country. In the 1999 election, the RPP received 11 seats in the House of Commons. The current ruling "interim premier" Lokendra Chand and some of his ministers are from the RPP.

A total of 39 registered parties ran for the last elections to date in 1999 - without the independent candidates.


The Royal Nepali Army (RNA) is a professional army with around 46,000 men (army 99.5%; air force 0.5%). The RNA is considered to be the most loyal institution to the king, especially after the accession of almost the only survivor of the royal family to the throne in June 2001. Its leadership has been reserved for a warrior caste close to the king, the Khas-Thakuri, for two centuries; the higher ranks are all drawn from Kathmandu's upper class. The appointment of the commander-in-chief of the RNA by the king takes place in accordance with Article 119 (paragraph 2) on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (without the Council of Ministers).

Every year more than five percent of the state budget is made available for the military budget.

The military tradition of the Nepalese mercenaries - so-called Gurkhas - since the 19th century in the service of British and since 1948 also Indian army units is independent of the RNA. In Kosovo, for example, such units were involved in the KFOR operation for Great Britain in 1999.

The RNA was active in various UN peacekeeping missions, but was and is also used internally. In 1990 she fired at unarmed demonstrators of the democracy movement. Since the declaration of a state of emergency in November 2001, it has also been used in the fight against the Maoist guerrillas, which was only made possible by an "all-party consensus".

In order to put down the armed uprising by Maoist rebels, US American and Indian military advisors are to support the RNA with equipment.


The freedom of the press is restricted. Press laws regulate reporting on the monarchy and national security. Reports of murders and human rights violations of journalists covering police abuses and corruption have increased in the recent past. With the imposition of the state of emergency, the rules were tightened further. After numerous arrests for allegedly pro-Maoist reporting, the press practiced largely self-censorship.

In Nepal there are around 30 daily newspapers and a few weekly newspapers, many of them in small editions. The most important daily newspapers are published in Kantipur. The total circulation of all newspapers is around 250,000 copies. Newspapers appear mainly in Nepali and English. The English-language press in particular is considered critical of the government.

The state news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) is based in Kathmandu.

The state television company, which has been broadcasting its program since 1986, only reaches a maximum of ten percent of the total population. There are two private TV channels that are entertainment-only channels with no daily news.

The first state radio station began broadcasting in 1951. There are an average of 39 radio and seven television sets for every 1,000 inhabitants. Private radio stations were banned in January 2001 amid the civil war.

The use of computer technology and the Internet is increasing rapidly, especially in cities. Most people surf in Internet cafes, private connections are very rare because of the high costs and the poor network.In total, there are 11.6 telephone connections, 2.7 computers and 0.05 internet access for every 1,000 inhabitants.


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  • Dieter Conrad (1995): The new Nepalese constitution, in: Nepal and the Himalaya region / Fourth Heidelberg South Asia Talks. Edited by Martin Gaenszle and Dietrich Schmitd-Vogt. Stuttgart.
  • Wolf Donner (1994): Habitat Nepal. A development geography, Hamburg: messages from the Institute for Asian Studies.
  • Martin Gaenszle (1995): Democracy in the Nepalese Context. Background of the current political changes, in: Nepal and the Himalaya region / Fourth Heidelberg South Asia Talks. Edited by Martin Gaenszle and Dietrich Schmitd-Vogt. Stuttgart.
  • Torsten Otto and Christoph Sprung (2002): Nepal's civil war escalated, in: antimilitarismus information, 32nd volume, issue 6, June 2002, pp. 34-40.
  • Ram Pradhan (1997) Renewed Change of Power in Nepal: Analysis and Perspectives, in: South Asia 17.2; Pp.54-57.
  • Eric Töpfer (2001): Red Star beyond China. Maoism in South Asia, in: Disloyal 15, Spring 2001, pp. 13f.
  • "Probably the most up-to-date and extremely informative> Web site Nepalresearch is a German-Nepalese production with mostly English-language articles, most of which are supported by press links from the country.
  • Report of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Kathmandu from 2001> on domestic politics
  • Relevant information from the> Austrian Research Foundation for Development
  • The German Foreign Office (offers up-to-date information on domestic policy)