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Information Package on<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />

(Series One - Technical Paper)

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />

(Series One - Technical Paper)<br />

Published by<br />

<strong>Support</strong> of Participa<strong>to</strong>ry <strong>Constitution</strong> <strong>Build<strong>in</strong>g</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong> (SPCBN), UNDP<br />

Centre for <strong>Constitution</strong>al Dialogue (CCD)<br />

First Edition: 2010<br />

Copyright © Centre for <strong>Constitution</strong>al Dialogue (CCD) - 2010. All rights reserved. Portions of<br />

this booklet may be reproduced and/or translated for non-commercial purpose, provided that<br />

CCD is acknowledged as the source of the material and is sent copies of such documents.<br />

Designed by: Himal Shrestha<br />

Pr<strong>in</strong>ted by: Creative Press Pvt. Ltd.<br />

Kamalpokhari, Kathmandu<br />


Centre for <strong>Constitution</strong>al Dialogue (CCD)<br />

3rd and 4th floor, Alfa Beta Complex, Buddhanagar, Kathmandu<br />

Telephone : 977-1- 4785998<br />

Fax : 977-1-4785487<br />

Email: <strong>in</strong>fo@ccd.org.np<br />

Website: www.ccd.org.np

About the Information Materials on<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />

The <strong>Support</strong> <strong>to</strong> Participa<strong>to</strong>ry <strong>Constitution</strong> <strong>Build<strong>in</strong>g</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong> (SPCBN/UNDP)<br />

project is provid<strong>in</strong>g different k<strong>in</strong>ds of support <strong>to</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong>'s constitution build<strong>in</strong>g<br />

process. In addition <strong>to</strong> organiz<strong>in</strong>g constructive dialogues and discussions<br />

between CA members and other stakeholders on contentious issues with regard<br />

<strong>to</strong> constitution writ<strong>in</strong>g, the Centre for <strong>Constitution</strong>al Dialogue (CCD) provides<br />

simple, easily accessible and appropriate <strong>in</strong>formation on the constitution<br />

draft<strong>in</strong>g process. The Centre has also been publish<strong>in</strong>g research material on<br />

related <strong>to</strong>pics with the objective of contribut<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong> consensus build<strong>in</strong>g on<br />

contentious issues.<br />

The 'Information Materials on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues (Series One-<br />

Technical Paper)' booklet has been prepared with the objective of facilitat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the Constituent Assembly <strong>to</strong> make decisions on some technical constitutional<br />

matters and also <strong>to</strong> provide <strong>in</strong>formation <strong>to</strong> stakeholders on such matters. The<br />

booklet also provides several options and discusses the strong and weak<br />

aspects of some of the technical aspects of the <strong>Constitution</strong> such as the<br />

preamble (of the <strong>Constitution</strong>), Def<strong>in</strong>ition of Nation and State, <strong>Constitution</strong>al<br />

Amendment, State of Emergency, the provision of Remov<strong>in</strong>g Difficulties etc.<br />

The booklet is expected <strong>to</strong> contribute <strong>to</strong> rational decision-mak<strong>in</strong>g on such<br />

issues and <strong>to</strong> help <strong>in</strong> <strong>Constitution</strong> <strong>Build<strong>in</strong>g</strong>.<br />

In addition <strong>to</strong> this technical paper series, CCD is also plann<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong> gradually<br />

publish a series of research materials on key <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues. Such<br />

publications are expected <strong>to</strong> help CA members, representatives of the Civil<br />

Society, and other stakeholders <strong>to</strong> make the right decisions at the right time.

Contents<br />

1. Preambles ................................................................. 1<br />

2. Def<strong>in</strong>ition of the State and the Nation ........................ 7<br />

3. National Anthem, Flag and National Emblem ............. 11<br />

4. Sovereignty and Staet Authority ................................. 15<br />

5. Limits Set <strong>to</strong> Parliament on Substantive<br />

Amendments <strong>to</strong> the <strong>Constitution</strong> ................................ 18<br />

6. Unamendable Provisions ........................................... 21<br />

7. The Role of Prov<strong>in</strong>ces <strong>in</strong> <strong>Constitution</strong>al Amendments.. 23<br />

8. Referendums ............................................................ 27<br />

9. State of Emergency ................................................... 30<br />

10. Power <strong>to</strong> Remove Difficulties ..................................... 36<br />

11. Nam<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>Constitution</strong> ............................................ 41

1. PREAMBLES<br />

Background<br />

<strong>Nepal</strong>’s Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> of <strong>Nepal</strong>, 2063, 2007 beg<strong>in</strong>s with the words<br />

“We the people”. The tradition of putt<strong>in</strong>g a preamble <strong>in</strong> a <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

probably began with the US <strong>Constitution</strong> which also beg<strong>in</strong>s with the words,<br />

‘We the People of the United States…’ Many other <strong>Constitution</strong>s <strong>in</strong> this way<br />

<strong>to</strong> emphasize that <strong>Constitution</strong>s are based on the will of the people, not of<br />

k<strong>in</strong>gs or gods or governments. By emphasiz<strong>in</strong>g people, the preamble also<br />

asserts that the <strong>Constitution</strong> is created for and by a political community.<br />

<strong>Nepal</strong> has its own tradition of <strong>in</strong>corporat<strong>in</strong>g preambles <strong>in</strong> its constitutions.<br />

The preamble sets the <strong>to</strong>ne for the 1990 <strong>Constitution</strong> recogniz<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

‘constitutional monarchy’ as well as human rights; multiparty democracy and<br />

other values such as liberty, fraternity and the rule of law.. The constitution<br />

allowed amendments only if they would not go aga<strong>in</strong>st the spirit of the<br />

preamble.<br />

However, <strong>in</strong> the aftermath of the Jana Andolan, the 1990 constitution was<br />

replaced by the current Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> which recognizes the his<strong>to</strong>ric<br />

struggles for democracy, and the need <strong>to</strong> restructure the state <strong>to</strong> resolve<br />

problems of marg<strong>in</strong>alization on the basis of caste, class, region and gender.<br />

It re<strong>in</strong>forces the commitment <strong>to</strong> democratic norms and values, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g multi<br />

party democracy, periodic elections and a secular, federal, democratic<br />

republic. It declares that the Interim constitution was created on the basis of<br />

a political consensus.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Issue 1: Should the constitution have a preamble?<br />


A. No<br />

preamble<br />

B. Have a<br />

preamble<br />

Where the Preamble has<br />

no legal value, why spend<br />

time over fram<strong>in</strong>g it? Go<br />

straight <strong>to</strong> the po<strong>in</strong>t of the<br />

substantive constitutional<br />

issues.<br />

Expla<strong>in</strong>s the purposes of<br />

the <strong>Constitution</strong>s, its vision<br />

and what it wants the<br />

country <strong>to</strong> achieve (India);<br />

May unify country by<br />

referr<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong> struggles <strong>in</strong> the<br />

past, especially those<br />

lead<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong> the new<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> (Bolivia) May<br />

describe how the new<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> was adopted<br />

and refer <strong>to</strong> the common<br />

values and hopes of the<br />

people and the orientation<br />

the people expect the state<br />

<strong>to</strong> follow (<strong>Nepal</strong> Interim<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>); Helps<br />

identify the “spirit” of the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> (Indonesia)<br />

Acts as a guide <strong>to</strong> the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> and is seen as<br />

sett<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>to</strong>ne of the<br />

constitution (Turkey);<br />

Legislature can refer <strong>to</strong> the<br />

preamble when enact<strong>in</strong>g<br />

laws and courts can refer<br />

<strong>to</strong> the preamble when<br />

<strong>in</strong>terpret<strong>in</strong>g contentious<br />

An opportunity <strong>to</strong> highlight<br />

the spirit of the<br />

constitution, its core values<br />

and pr<strong>in</strong>ciples, <strong>in</strong>tention of<br />

the drafter may be lost.<br />

The preamble must reflect<br />

the broadest social<br />

concerns <strong>in</strong> a neutral, yet<br />

<strong>in</strong>spir<strong>in</strong>g way – if not it will<br />

be the lighten<strong>in</strong>g rod <strong>to</strong><br />

provoke and alienate<br />

sections of the community.<br />

2<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues

issues <strong>in</strong> the constitution <strong>to</strong><br />

see if the issues uphold the<br />

spirit of the preamble<br />

(<strong>Nepal</strong> 1990 <strong>Constitution</strong>).<br />

Can also be used <strong>to</strong> <strong>in</strong>spire<br />

and motivate the people<br />

and build consensus<br />

around core values.<br />

Commentary<br />

The style <strong>in</strong> which a preamble is written also partially def<strong>in</strong>es its legal value<br />

or significance. While <strong>in</strong> some cases preambles conta<strong>in</strong> basic pr<strong>in</strong>ciples upon<br />

which a <strong>Constitution</strong> is founded, others are limited <strong>to</strong> his<strong>to</strong>rical references<br />

and general ideas. Preambles can be useful devices <strong>to</strong> set the <strong>to</strong>ne of the<br />

constitution and <strong>to</strong> unite and reassure people – if they are well drafted. The<br />

preambles <strong>in</strong> the US & Indian constitutions mean a lot <strong>to</strong> their societies;<br />

India amended its preamble <strong>to</strong> <strong>in</strong>clude secularism <strong>to</strong> ensure its commitment<br />

<strong>to</strong> it as it was becom<strong>in</strong>g diluted through politics.<br />

<strong>Nepal</strong> has a tradition of <strong>in</strong>corporat<strong>in</strong>g preambles <strong>in</strong> its constitutions. It may<br />

consider us<strong>in</strong>g this his<strong>to</strong>ric opportunity and the mechanism of the preamble<br />

<strong>to</strong> <strong>in</strong>tegrate people <strong>in</strong> broad and <strong>in</strong>clusive terms, avoid<strong>in</strong>g contentious issues<br />

that will divide people. It may also use this opportunity <strong>to</strong>:<br />

• Refer <strong>to</strong> common struggles for democracy through the Jana Andolan,<br />

• Re<strong>in</strong>force the commitments that it has made through the Interim<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> <strong>to</strong> democracy, social <strong>in</strong>clusion and social justice and outl<strong>in</strong>e<br />

broad pr<strong>in</strong>ciples of ethics and governance that the <strong>Constitution</strong> seeks<br />

<strong>to</strong> uphold.<br />

• Re<strong>in</strong>force its commitments <strong>to</strong> secularism, republicanism, federalism<br />

and participa<strong>to</strong>ry government free of corruption as ways of ensur<strong>in</strong>g<br />

social <strong>in</strong>clusion and social justice.<br />

• F<strong>in</strong>d new symbols (e.g. unique natural environment) and new ways of<br />

celebrat<strong>in</strong>g it unity <strong>in</strong> diversity <strong>to</strong> <strong>in</strong>spire and <strong>in</strong>tegrate its people.<br />

• Refer <strong>to</strong> the participa<strong>to</strong>ry and <strong>in</strong>clusive way <strong>in</strong> which the <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

was drafted and <strong>to</strong> the submissions thus received.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Issue 2: If the constitution has a preamble what form should it<br />

take?<br />


A. Short -<br />

Clear<br />

Simple<br />

Language<br />

The advantage of hav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

short, clear preambles is<br />

that the core values that it<br />

advances can be<br />

memorized even by<br />

children and <strong>in</strong> this way at<br />

least a part of the<br />

constitution is firmly <strong>in</strong> the<br />

m<strong>in</strong>ds of the people.<br />

(USA, India)<br />

More difficult <strong>to</strong> create<br />

consensus about a short<br />

preamble, might miss the<br />

opportunity <strong>to</strong> provide a<br />

buffer for various<br />

aspirations of particular<br />

groups.<br />

B. Long -<br />

Refer <strong>to</strong><br />

past<br />

struggles,<br />

use<br />

emotional<br />

language?<br />

Long preambles may refer<br />

<strong>in</strong> detail <strong>to</strong> struggles <strong>in</strong> the<br />

past, the obstacles the<br />

country seeks <strong>to</strong> overcome<br />

and how it <strong>in</strong>tends <strong>to</strong> chart<br />

the future (Papua New<br />

Gu<strong>in</strong>ea, Japan, Germany);<br />

Preamble that uses poetic<br />

and common language<br />

may be appeal<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong><br />

emotions (Bolivia), which<br />

may have a positive unit<strong>in</strong>g<br />

effect.<br />

May be confus<strong>in</strong>g, if it is<br />

long & detailed; every<br />

group expects be<br />

recognized and see its<br />

issues <strong>in</strong> the preamble;<br />

Lengthy preambles tend <strong>to</strong><br />

adopt a legalistic style that<br />

might make it difficult for<br />

general readers <strong>to</strong><br />

understand it.<br />

Commentary<br />

How a preamble is written is contextual and l<strong>in</strong>ked <strong>to</strong> the society <strong>in</strong> question.<br />

It has <strong>to</strong> resonate with the country and the community for it <strong>to</strong> have any value<br />

4<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues

Issue 3: Should the preamble be amendable?<br />


Preamble<br />

should be<br />

amendable<br />

Preamble<br />

should not<br />

be<br />

amendable<br />

It helps <strong>to</strong> update the<br />

constitution and reflect new<br />

& emerg<strong>in</strong>g values of the<br />

society<br />

Protects core values.<br />

If it can be amendable, can<br />

it be said that there are<br />

core values? Majorities<br />

can shift the constitution <strong>in</strong><br />

ways that m<strong>in</strong>orities feel<br />

<strong>in</strong>secure.<br />

If the values reflected <strong>in</strong> the<br />

preamble are not <strong>in</strong><br />

keep<strong>in</strong>g with society’s<br />

values it make the<br />

constitution <strong>to</strong>o rigid.<br />

Commentary<br />

• The 1990 constitution of <strong>Nepal</strong> declared that constitutional amendments<br />

affect<strong>in</strong>g the “spirit of the preamble” (which <strong>in</strong>cluded recognition of<br />

the constitutional monarchy) were not <strong>to</strong> be allowed. Yet the 1990<br />

constitution was discarded <strong>in</strong> its <strong>to</strong>tality after the Jana Andolan when<br />

the people rejected the monarchy.<br />

• The Preamble <strong>to</strong> the Indian constitution was amended by the 42nd<br />

Amendment and the words “Secular” and “Socialist” was added <strong>to</strong><br />

the preamble. The reason for <strong>in</strong>sert<strong>in</strong>g these words was <strong>to</strong> spell out the<br />

high ideas of socialism, secularism and the <strong>in</strong>tegrity of the nation because<br />

these <strong>in</strong>stitutions were subjected <strong>to</strong> stresses and stra<strong>in</strong>s and political<br />

<strong>in</strong>terests were underm<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g them. Some say that it should be amended<br />

aga<strong>in</strong> <strong>to</strong> remove “socialism” as India has adopted market oriented<br />

policies – but this has not happened.<br />

• Preamble of Bangladesh <strong>Constitution</strong>, by Martial law proclamation <strong>in</strong><br />

1978, could only be amended by a referendum.<br />

• The <strong>Constitution</strong> of Turkey declares that Turkey is a ‘secular’ state and<br />

provides that this provision is not amendable.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Issue 4: When should the Preamble be written?<br />


At the<br />

beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g of<br />

the draft<strong>in</strong>g<br />

process<br />

At the end<br />

of the<br />

draft<strong>in</strong>g<br />

process<br />

Set the <strong>to</strong>ne and values<br />

that the constitution will<br />

have <strong>to</strong> reflect.<br />

It is possible <strong>to</strong> synthesize<br />

the values of the<br />

constitution <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> the<br />

preamble if it is written at<br />

the end of the process;<br />

unites drafter around the<br />

core values<br />

Drafters can get “stuck”<br />

settl<strong>in</strong>g on what those<br />

values are, the lack of<br />

agreement on this can stall<br />

the whole draft<strong>in</strong>g process<br />

It does not guide the<br />

drafters and ensure that<br />

certa<strong>in</strong> values and spirit<br />

pervade the constitution.<br />

Commentary<br />

A noteworthy fact about the Indian constitution is that it was the last of all <strong>to</strong><br />

be framed.<br />

6<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues



Background<br />

With some exceptions, the def<strong>in</strong>ition of the State gets its place <strong>in</strong> most<br />

constitutions. Some constitutions do not def<strong>in</strong>e the nation at all. Some<br />

constitutions have separate def<strong>in</strong>itions of the nation/nations as well as the<br />

state. <strong>Constitution</strong>s generally also def<strong>in</strong>e the terri<strong>to</strong>ry of the state and many<br />

<strong>in</strong>clude provisions on the acquisition of new terri<strong>to</strong>ry. Many federal<br />

constitutions mention that the terri<strong>to</strong>ry of the state is comprised of the terri<strong>to</strong>ry<br />

of its constituent units, which are generally listed by name <strong>in</strong> the <strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

Among the federal constitutions most constitutions def<strong>in</strong>e themselves as federal<br />

states, but not necessarily <strong>in</strong> the name of the state. Some countries with federal<br />

characteristics choose not <strong>to</strong> identify themselves as federal states. Many<br />

constitutions also def<strong>in</strong>e some important pr<strong>in</strong>ciples, values and/or b<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g<br />

elements.<br />

Issue 1: Should the constitution conta<strong>in</strong> a def<strong>in</strong>ition of the<br />

State?<br />


A. Yes Consistent with the<br />

practice <strong>in</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong> and other<br />

countries<br />

None<br />

B. No Shorter Absence of clearly def<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

basic pr<strong>in</strong>ciples<br />

Commentary<br />

Some countries have separate provisions related <strong>to</strong> the official names and<br />

some name the country <strong>in</strong> the part of Basic Pr<strong>in</strong>ciples of the constitution.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> def<strong>in</strong>es <strong>Nepal</strong> as an “<strong>in</strong>dependent,<br />

<strong>in</strong>divisible, sovereign, secular, <strong>in</strong>clusive, federal, democratic republican<br />

State”. Under def<strong>in</strong>itions (Art 165) it states that “<strong>Nepal</strong>” means the<br />

State of <strong>Nepal</strong>.<br />

• India: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states”. In its preamble,<br />

the constitution def<strong>in</strong>es the state as a sovereign socialist secular<br />

democratic republic <strong>to</strong> secure <strong>to</strong> all its citizens justice, social, economic<br />

and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;<br />

equality of status and of opportunity; and <strong>to</strong> promote among them all<br />

fraternity assur<strong>in</strong>g the dignity of the <strong>in</strong>dividual and the unity and <strong>in</strong>tegrity<br />

of the nation;<br />

• France: “France shall be an <strong>in</strong>divisible, secular, democratic and social<br />

Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without<br />

dist<strong>in</strong>ction of orig<strong>in</strong>, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall<br />

be organized on a decentralized basis.”<br />

• Belgium is a federal State composed of Communities and Regions.<br />

Belgium comprises three Communities: the Flemish Community, the<br />

French Community and the German-speak<strong>in</strong>g Community. Belgium<br />

comprises three Regions: the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and<br />

the Brussels Region. Belgium comprises four l<strong>in</strong>guistic regions: the<br />

Dutch-speak<strong>in</strong>g region, the French-speak<strong>in</strong>g region, the bil<strong>in</strong>gual region<br />

of Brussels-Capital and the German-speak<strong>in</strong>g region.<br />

• Iraq : “The Republic of Iraq is a s<strong>in</strong>gle federal, <strong>in</strong>dependent and fully<br />

sovereign state <strong>in</strong> which the system of government is republican,<br />

representative, parliamentary, and democratic, and this <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

is a guaran<strong>to</strong>r of the unity of Iraq.”<br />

8<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues

Issue 2: Should the constitution conta<strong>in</strong> a separate def<strong>in</strong>ition<br />

of the Nation?<br />


Yes • It can be an effective<br />

way of address<strong>in</strong>g unity<br />

<strong>in</strong> diversity<br />

• Consistent with the<br />

practice <strong>in</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong>.<br />

Identify<strong>in</strong>g the b<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g<br />

elements might be<br />

challeng<strong>in</strong>g. Identify<strong>in</strong>g all<br />

ethnic groups <strong>in</strong> a diverse<br />

country as one nation may<br />

alienate some, especially if<br />

they claim <strong>to</strong> be nations <strong>in</strong><br />

themselves.<br />

No<br />

Keeps th<strong>in</strong>gs simple and<br />

saves unnecessary<br />

discussion <strong>to</strong> achieve<br />

consensus among diverse<br />

views<br />

Lacks one effective way of<br />

promot<strong>in</strong>g unity <strong>in</strong><br />

diversity.<br />

Commentary<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> states that all the <strong>Nepal</strong>i people<br />

collectively constitute the nation, hav<strong>in</strong>g multi-ethnic, multi-l<strong>in</strong>gual,<br />

multi-religious characteristics with common aspirations, and be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

committed <strong>to</strong> and united by a bond of allegiance <strong>to</strong> national<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependence, <strong>in</strong>tegrity, national <strong>in</strong>terest and prosperity of <strong>Nepal</strong>.<br />

• India’s <strong>Constitution</strong> does not have a separate clause on def<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the<br />

nation. From its overall use of the term nation, it is clear, however, that<br />

India’s <strong>Constitution</strong> is based on the concept of one s<strong>in</strong>gle nation, albeit<br />

<strong>in</strong> recognition of the ethnic and l<strong>in</strong>guistic diversity of its population.<br />

• Spa<strong>in</strong>: The <strong>Constitution</strong> is based on the <strong>in</strong>dissoluble unity of the<br />

Spanish Nation, the common and <strong>in</strong>divisible homeland of all Spaniards;<br />

it recognizes and guarantees the right <strong>to</strong> self-government of the<br />

nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity<br />

among them all.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Issue 3: In the context of devis<strong>in</strong>g a federal structure should<br />

the def<strong>in</strong>ition <strong>in</strong>clude the term “federal”?<br />


Yes • It will assure those<br />

people and communities<br />

that demanded and<br />

supported federal ism.<br />

The term ‘federal’ may<br />

prove <strong>to</strong> be divisive and<br />

controversial<br />

• This is the general<br />

practice of most federal<br />

countries <strong>to</strong> identify<br />

themselves as federal.<br />

No • Some people fear that<br />

federal system might<br />

dis<strong>in</strong>tegrate the country.<br />

So hav<strong>in</strong>g federal<br />

system <strong>in</strong> substance<br />

without identify<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

country as federal might<br />

help achiev<strong>in</strong>g<br />

consensus.<br />

It might be difficult <strong>to</strong><br />

satisfy especially the people<br />

who are <strong>in</strong> favor of ethnic<br />

federalism.<br />

Commentary<br />

Most federal countries mention the federal form <strong>in</strong> the def<strong>in</strong>ition (or even the<br />

name) of the country. However there are some countries which are federal<br />

<strong>in</strong> substance but do not constitutionally declare themselves as federal ones –<br />

i.e. India, South Africa, Spa<strong>in</strong> and United States of America. This is related<br />

<strong>to</strong> the particular context when the constitution was be<strong>in</strong>g formed <strong>in</strong> each<br />

country. Despite hav<strong>in</strong>g a very <strong>in</strong>tense debate between federalists and antifederalists,<br />

the framers of the American constitution chose <strong>to</strong> identify the<br />

country as the United States. Similarly, due <strong>to</strong> the division lead<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong> the<br />

creation of Pakistan, the framers of the Indian constitution decided <strong>to</strong> identify<br />

the country as a Union.<br />

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Background<br />

The national anthem, the flag and the national emblem are important <strong>in</strong> the<br />

national life of almost all countries <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g <strong>Nepal</strong>. Such symbols are either<br />

determ<strong>in</strong>ed by the constitution itself or as specified by the law. It entirely<br />

depends on <strong>Nepal</strong>i people <strong>to</strong> decide on the national anthem, flag and other<br />

symbols that are significant <strong>in</strong> their national life but <strong>in</strong> do<strong>in</strong>g so they should<br />

address their diversity, their commitment <strong>to</strong> live <strong>to</strong>gether, as equal and united<br />

people.<br />

Issue 1: Should a constitution have a provision on national<br />

anthem, flag, national colour, flower, animal etc?<br />


Yes<br />

Creates unify<strong>in</strong>g symbols;<br />

makes it more difficult <strong>to</strong><br />

change<br />

It might delay the process<br />

<strong>to</strong> get the common<br />

consensus.<br />

No Might speed up the process Not hav<strong>in</strong>g any national<br />

symbols might contribute<br />

<strong>to</strong> weaken<strong>in</strong>g a sense of<br />

national identity. Not<br />

def<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g these <strong>in</strong> the<br />

constitution might leave it<br />

up <strong>to</strong> the political majority<br />

of the day <strong>to</strong> change these<br />

symbols.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Commentary<br />

While symbols can be unify<strong>in</strong>g symbols that foster national identity, they can<br />

also be divisive and contested. The 1990 <strong>Constitution</strong> specified the national<br />

flag, anthem and other symbols of <strong>Nepal</strong>. The Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> also<br />

mentions the national flag <strong>in</strong> detail but leaves the decision on the national<br />

anthem <strong>to</strong> be determ<strong>in</strong>ed by the Government of <strong>Nepal</strong>, which duly <strong>in</strong>troduced<br />

a new tune and text subsequently. Nevertheless, the national flower, bird,<br />

colour and national animal “cow” rema<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong> the Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> (Art.<br />

7.2.).<br />

• Most <strong>Constitution</strong>s def<strong>in</strong>e basic state symbols such as a flag <strong>in</strong> the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>. Some countries also adopt additional symbols, such as<br />

plants and animals, colours, etc. whereby that is often left <strong>to</strong> specialized<br />

legislation or <strong>to</strong> the government <strong>to</strong> determ<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

• Bolivia’s <strong>Constitution</strong> mentions two flowers, one for the highlands<br />

(kantuta) and one for the lowlands (patuhu), which share the same<br />

colours, also represented <strong>in</strong> the national flag (red, yellow, green).<br />

Issue 2 : Who should decide the national anthem, flag, and<br />

other symbols?<br />


A. Specify<br />

<strong>in</strong> the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong><br />

itself.<br />

It will validate the struggles<br />

of the people <strong>in</strong> the<br />

constitution itself.<br />

It might take longer time <strong>to</strong><br />

come <strong>to</strong> the common<br />

consensus.<br />

B. To be<br />

determ<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

by the<br />

government<br />

or by law.<br />

It will fasten the process of<br />

constitution writ<strong>in</strong>g<br />

process.<br />

It might not address the<br />

people’s aspirations, hence<br />

made it b<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the<br />

constitution.<br />

Commentary<br />

There is no standard practice on whether the national anthem and other<br />

symbols are <strong>to</strong> be mentioned <strong>in</strong> the constitution itself or decide by the<br />

government.<br />

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• Ethiopia: The national anthem could be determ<strong>in</strong>ed by the law but, it<br />

shall reflect the ideals of <strong>Constitution</strong>, the Commitment of Peoples <strong>to</strong><br />

live <strong>to</strong>gether <strong>in</strong> a democratic order and of their common dest<strong>in</strong>y.<br />

• South Africa: To be determ<strong>in</strong>ed by the President by proclamation.<br />

• Sri Lanka: The national anthem and flag are described <strong>in</strong> the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

Issue 3: What should the national anthem, flag, colour, bird<br />

and flower and other symbols symbolize if there should be<br />

any?<br />


A. Adopt<br />

the same<br />

national<br />

anthem,<br />

flag, colour,<br />

bird and<br />

flower as it<br />

is <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Interim<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

B. Mention<br />

& describe<br />

national<br />

anthem and<br />

the flag<br />

only.<br />

The national anthem, flag,<br />

and emblems such as the<br />

bird and flower are a part<br />

of <strong>Nepal</strong>’s his<strong>to</strong>ry, people<br />

are familiar with it.<br />

It prevents the constitution<br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g from becom<strong>in</strong>g<br />

bogged down <strong>in</strong> divisive<br />

details<br />

It might be difficult <strong>to</strong> get<br />

consensus on the anthem<br />

and national colour as it<br />

was l<strong>in</strong>ked <strong>to</strong> the previous<br />

monarchical regime, the<br />

animal (cow) is seen as<br />

symboliz<strong>in</strong>g H<strong>in</strong>duism and<br />

contrary <strong>to</strong> the secular<br />

ideals of the new <strong>Nepal</strong>.<br />

Questions may be raised<br />

why national animal, bird,<br />

flower and colour is not<br />

mentioned. And there are<br />

chances of movement by<br />

H<strong>in</strong>du followers.<br />

C. Details<br />

of the<br />

anthem and<br />

flag <strong>to</strong> be<br />

outl<strong>in</strong>ed by<br />

law<br />

It prevents the constitution<br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g from becom<strong>in</strong>g<br />

bogged down <strong>in</strong> divisive<br />

details<br />

People will be concerned<br />

that these special symbols<br />

can be easily changed<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Commentary<br />

National anthem and other symbols should reflect the aspiration of the people<br />

and the commitment <strong>to</strong> live <strong>to</strong>gether with equality and unity. If they relate<br />

only <strong>to</strong> one community they become symbols of division. While it is common<br />

for constitutions <strong>to</strong> refer <strong>to</strong> a flag and constitution fewer countries have<br />

national animals, colours and flowers. Some countries devote a lot of effort<br />

<strong>to</strong> f<strong>in</strong>d new symbols if they are turn<strong>in</strong>g their backs on a reviled past (South<br />

Africa after Apartheid, former socialist bloc countries after the fall of<br />

communism). Members of federations can also have separate flags and<br />

emblems and can determ<strong>in</strong>e the details through their respective legislatures.<br />

• Venezuela: The symbols used <strong>in</strong> the flags and the anthem signifies<br />

“Gloria al bravo pueblo” (Glory <strong>to</strong> the Brave People), and the coat of<br />

arms of the Republic are symbols of the native land of Venezuela.<br />

• Ethiopia: The national emblem on the flag of Ethiopian flag reflect<br />

the hope of the Nations, Nationalities, Peoples as well as religious<br />

communities of Ethiopia <strong>to</strong> live <strong>to</strong>gether <strong>in</strong> equality and unity. And the<br />

national anthem “shall reflect the ideals of <strong>Constitution</strong>, the Commitment<br />

of Peoples <strong>to</strong> live <strong>to</strong>gether <strong>in</strong> a democratic order and of their common<br />

dest<strong>in</strong>y” (<strong>to</strong> be determ<strong>in</strong>ed by law).<br />

• France: “The maxim of the Republic shall be “Liberty, Equality,<br />

Fraternity”. The pr<strong>in</strong>ciple of the Republic shall be: government of the<br />

people, by the people and for the people.<br />

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Background<br />

Most constitutions address the issue of sovereignty and state authority. They<br />

usually recognize that it is the people who are sovereign and that the authority<br />

of the state comes from them. Democracies are def<strong>in</strong>ed by the concept that<br />

sovereignty and state authority emanate from the people. To provide for<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>u<strong>in</strong>g control by the people, democratic constitutions provide for free<br />

elections, equal rights <strong>to</strong> vote for all citizens, effective protection of human<br />

rights and freedoms, accountable government and the rule of law.<br />

Issue 1: Should the <strong>Constitution</strong> conta<strong>in</strong> a declaration that<br />

sovereignty comes from the people and that authority is<br />

exercised on its behalf?<br />


A. There<br />

should be<br />

such a<br />

declaration<br />

B. There<br />

could be a<br />

statement<br />

that<br />

sovereignty<br />

emanates<br />

from<br />

someone<br />

other than<br />

the people<br />

of <strong>Nepal</strong><br />

This is consistent with the<br />

practice <strong>in</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong> and with<br />

<strong>in</strong>ternational norms.<br />

Might speed up the process<br />

None<br />

This would reduce the<br />

democratic quality of the<br />

new state and would<br />

probably alienate large<br />

sections of the population<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Commentary<br />

Apart from statement that the <strong>Constitution</strong> and state authority derive from the<br />

will of the sovereign people, <strong>Constitution</strong>s also need <strong>to</strong> provide for substantive<br />

provisions <strong>to</strong> flesh out this ideal. Examples from around the world have shown<br />

that a mere statement of popular sovereignty and democratic state authority<br />

may not be sufficient.. Provisions on periodic and free elections, based on<br />

equal franchise, the effective protection of human rights and freedoms,<br />

participa<strong>to</strong>ry and accountable government and the rule of law (exercise of<br />

state authority only on the basis of law which can ultimately be traced back<br />

<strong>to</strong> a popular mandate) must also be <strong>in</strong>cluded <strong>in</strong> constitutional frameworks <strong>to</strong><br />

give substance <strong>to</strong> the basic concept that sovereignty comes from the people.<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: Previous constitutions have recognized the pr<strong>in</strong>ciple that<br />

sovereignty comes from the people (see Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> (2007 CE),<br />

Art 2 and 1990 <strong>Constitution</strong>, Art 3. However, <strong>in</strong> the case of the 1990<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>, its preamble made it clear that the ultimate sovereignty<br />

did not lie with the people but with the monarch).<br />

• South Africa: “We, the people of South Africa […] through our freely<br />

elected representatives, adopt this <strong>Constitution</strong> as the supreme law of<br />

the Republic.”<br />

• Ch<strong>in</strong>a: “The People’s Republic of Ch<strong>in</strong>a is a socialist state under the<br />

people’s democratic dicta<strong>to</strong>rship led by the work<strong>in</strong>g class and based<br />

on the alliance of workers and peasants.”<br />

• India: “We, the people of India, hav<strong>in</strong>g solemnly resolved <strong>to</strong> constitute<br />

India <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic…”<br />

• The United States of America: “We the people of the United<br />

States …do orda<strong>in</strong> and establish this <strong>Constitution</strong> for the United States<br />

of America.”<br />

• Japan: “We, the Japanese people…do proclaim that sovereign power<br />

resides with the people and do firmly establish this <strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which<br />

comes from the people….”<br />

• France: “The Government of the Republic [...] has proposed, The<br />

French people have adopted, and The President of the Republic hereby<br />

promulgates the <strong>Constitution</strong>al statute.” Article 3 of the <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

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states that “National sovereignty belongs <strong>to</strong> the people, who shall exercise<br />

it through their representatives and by means of referendum. […].”<br />

• Austria: “Austria is a democratic republic. Its law emanates from the<br />

people.”<br />

• Russian Federation: “We, the mult<strong>in</strong>ational people of the Russian<br />

Federation, […] hereby approve the <strong>Constitution</strong> of the Russian<br />

Federation. […] Article 3 states that “The mult<strong>in</strong>ational people of the<br />

Russian Federation shall be the vehicle of sovereignty and the only<br />

source of power <strong>in</strong> the Russian Federation. The people of the Russian<br />

Federation shall exercise their power directly, and also through organs<br />

of state power and local self-government. The referendum and free<br />

elections shall be the supreme direct manifestation of the power of the<br />

people.”<br />

• South Africa: “We, the people of South Africa […] through our freely<br />

elected representatives, adopt this <strong>Constitution</strong> as the supreme law of<br />

the Republic.” Its Article 1 also states that “The Republic of South<br />

Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the follow<strong>in</strong>g<br />

values: […] d. Universal adult suffrage, a national common voters roll,<br />

regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government,<br />

<strong>to</strong> ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.”<br />

• Ethiopia: “Sovereignty resides <strong>in</strong> the nations, nationalities and peoples<br />

of Ethiopia. This <strong>Constitution</strong> is an expression of their sovereignty.<br />

Sovereignty shall be expressed through the peoples’ representatives,<br />

elected by them <strong>in</strong> accordance with this <strong>Constitution</strong>, and through their<br />

direct democratic participation.”<br />

• The expression of popular sovereignty through constitutions is therefore<br />

an <strong>in</strong>ternational standard that is also reflected <strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong>ternational law, <strong>in</strong><br />

particular <strong>in</strong>ternational human rights law. The UN Charter (“we, the<br />

peoples of the United Nations”), the UN Declaration on Human Rights<br />

and the Human Rights Covenants (“The will of the people, expressed<br />

<strong>in</strong> periodic and genu<strong>in</strong>e elections with universal and equal suffrage<br />

shall be the basis of the authority of government”) and others <strong>in</strong>clude<br />

references <strong>to</strong> popular sovereignty (“right <strong>to</strong> freely determ<strong>in</strong>e their political<br />

status”), self-determ<strong>in</strong>ation and the “right <strong>to</strong> take part <strong>in</strong> the government<br />

of his country directly or through freely chosen representatives”.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />





Background<br />

Every <strong>Constitution</strong> <strong>in</strong>cludes provisions on its own amendment. Usually, there<br />

is a general amend<strong>in</strong>g formula, which applies <strong>to</strong> most if not all amendments.<br />

This general formula describes who can <strong>in</strong>itiate the amendment and the<br />

process for approv<strong>in</strong>g it. However, there are examples of constitutional<br />

provisions that may not be amended at all (see Note No.6 on “Unamendable<br />

subjects”). While federal constitutions generally provide for participation of<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ces <strong>in</strong> constitutional amendments <strong>in</strong> particular if they affect their powers<br />

<strong>in</strong> substance (see Note 7 on the “Role of Prov<strong>in</strong>ces <strong>in</strong> <strong>Constitution</strong>al<br />

Amendments”). There are also many examples of amendments that can<br />

only be proposed by a particular ac<strong>to</strong>r, or that must be approved by some<br />

special process, such as a ‘special majority’ or a referendum (see, for example,<br />

the special role for legislatures of states or prov<strong>in</strong>ces <strong>in</strong> amendments <strong>to</strong> federal<br />

constitutions). Generally, the more fundamental the proposed amendment<br />

is, the more demand<strong>in</strong>g is the amend<strong>in</strong>g formula. Some countries provide<br />

that an amendment which alters basic structures or pr<strong>in</strong>ciples can only be<br />

passed by a referendum.<br />

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Issue 1: Should the <strong>Constitution</strong> set limits <strong>to</strong> Parliament<br />

regard<strong>in</strong>g substantive amendments <strong>to</strong> the <strong>Constitution</strong><br />


A. Yes Strengthens the stability of<br />

the constitutional order<br />

Adjusts the difficulty of the<br />

process <strong>to</strong> the importance<br />

of the subject matter<br />

Different rules leads <strong>to</strong> a<br />

complex amendment<br />

process that can be difficult<br />

<strong>to</strong> understand.<br />

Rules mak<strong>in</strong>g constitutional<br />

amendments very difficult<br />

may lead <strong>to</strong> deadlock<br />

B. No Flexibility Creates the risk of frequent<br />

changes <strong>to</strong> the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

changes <strong>to</strong> its most<br />

fundamental character.<br />

Commentary<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: In the Interim <strong>Constitution</strong>, there is no restriction of on chang<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the most basic parameters of the <strong>Constitution</strong>, such as the pr<strong>in</strong>ciples of<br />

federalism, secularism, democracy or republicanism. The 1990<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> (<strong>in</strong> its Article 116 Amendment of the <strong>Constitution</strong>) had<br />

provided for a more restrictive approach. Bills <strong>to</strong> amend or repeal any<br />

Article of that <strong>Constitution</strong> could be <strong>in</strong>troduced <strong>in</strong> either House of<br />

Parliament with the exception of those that would aim at chang<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

amend<strong>in</strong>g formula itself and those that would “prejudice the spirit of<br />

the Preamble of this <strong>Constitution</strong>”.<br />

• Switzerland: In Switzerland, constitutional amendments must be put<br />

<strong>to</strong> the people and the Can<strong>to</strong>ns <strong>in</strong> a referendum and must be approved<br />

by a majority of people overall and a majority of the people <strong>in</strong> a majority<br />

of Can<strong>to</strong>ns. In Switzerland, however, the popular <strong>in</strong>itiative of<br />

constitutional amendment is permitted. The people may <strong>in</strong>itiate a partial<br />

or complete revision of the <strong>Constitution</strong> by collect<strong>in</strong>g 100,000 signatures.<br />

If the Parliament disagrees with a popular <strong>in</strong>itiative, it may submit its<br />

own counter-proposal <strong>to</strong> a referendum at the same time as the popular<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


<strong>in</strong>itiative. It cannot, however, prevent the people from vot<strong>in</strong>g on the<br />

popular <strong>in</strong>itiative. In practice, the success rate of constitutional<br />

amendments proposed by the Swiss Parliament is relatively high<br />

(around two-thirds), whereas most popularly <strong>in</strong>itiated referenda fail.<br />

• Austria: <strong>Constitution</strong>al laws or constitutional provisions conta<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

<strong>in</strong> simple laws can be passed by the parliament only <strong>in</strong> the presence of<br />

at least half the members and by a two thirds majority of the votes cast;<br />

they shall be explicitly specified as such (“constitutional law”,<br />

“constitutional provision”). <strong>Constitution</strong>al laws or constitutional<br />

provisions conta<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong> simple laws restrict<strong>in</strong>g the competence of the<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ces require furthermore the approval of the Federal Council which<br />

must be imparted <strong>in</strong> the presence of at least half the members and by a<br />

two thirds majority of the votes cast. Any <strong>to</strong>tal revision of the Federal<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> shall be submitted <strong>to</strong> a referendum by the entire nation,<br />

whereas any partial revision requires this only if one third of the<br />

members of the National Council or the Federal Council so demands.<br />

• Spa<strong>in</strong>: The <strong>to</strong>tal revision of the Spanish <strong>Constitution</strong>, or the revision<br />

of certa<strong>in</strong> parts of it (such as those concern<strong>in</strong>g fundamental rights and<br />

freedoms and the Crown) require two-thirds majorities <strong>in</strong> each House,<br />

the dissolution of the Parliament, the passage of the Bill by two-thirds<br />

majorities <strong>in</strong> the newly elected Houses and a compulsory referendum.<br />

• Canada: Canada has 4 different processes for amend<strong>in</strong>g its<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>. The Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of each<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ce must approve an amendment affect<strong>in</strong>g the ‘role of the Queen’<br />

(which is fundamental <strong>to</strong> Canada’s form of government), the formula<br />

which determ<strong>in</strong>es the number of members of Parliament from each<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ce, the use of <strong>English</strong> and French, the number of representatives<br />

from each region on the Supreme Court and the amend<strong>in</strong>g formula<br />

itself. “Fundamental rights and freedoms” are amendable under the<br />

general formula and no special rules apply <strong>to</strong> them.<br />

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Background<br />

Some constitutions provide that some of their provisions may not be amended.<br />

Such provisions make it impossible for future generations <strong>to</strong> alter the basic<br />

pr<strong>in</strong>ciples of the <strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

Issue 1: Are there some provisions that should not be<br />

amendable?<br />


Yes<br />

Makes it more difficult <strong>to</strong><br />

change ‘fundamental’<br />

provisions<br />

There may be no<br />

agreement over what is<br />

fundamental.<br />

Limits the democratic<br />

freedom of future<br />

generations.<br />

No<br />

Recognizes the sovereignty<br />

of the people, who can<br />

change their constitution as<br />

they wish.<br />

Future political majorities<br />

might squander some of<br />

the achievements made by<br />

constitutional drafters.<br />

Commentary<br />

Although it is generally assumed <strong>to</strong>day that constitutions are amendable, such<br />

was not always the case. At one time, most constitutions failed <strong>to</strong> <strong>in</strong>clude any<br />

provision for their amendment. In fact, it has been said that the idea of<br />

<strong>in</strong>corporat<strong>in</strong>g with<strong>in</strong> a constitution a provision for its own amendment was<br />

largely an <strong>in</strong>vention of the US <strong>Constitution</strong>al Convention <strong>in</strong> Philadelphia. Article<br />

Five of the United States <strong>Constitution</strong> establishes the procedures by which<br />

future alterations <strong>to</strong> the <strong>Constitution</strong> are <strong>to</strong> be made.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The 1990 constitution of <strong>Nepal</strong> declared that constitutional<br />

amendments affect<strong>in</strong>g the “spirit of the preamble” (which <strong>in</strong>cluded<br />

recognition of the constitutional monarchy) were not <strong>to</strong> be allowed. Yet<br />

the 1990 constitution was discarded <strong>in</strong> its <strong>to</strong>tality after the Jana Andolan<br />

when the people rejected the monarchy. The Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> of<br />

2007 does mention any unamendable subjects.<br />

• United States: The provision for equal representation of the States<br />

<strong>in</strong> the Senate is not amendable. By implication, the amend<strong>in</strong>g formula<br />

itself is said not <strong>to</strong> be subject <strong>to</strong> amendment.<br />

• Germany: Article 79 of the German Basic Law places limitations on<br />

amendments, namely: “amendments of this <strong>Constitution</strong> affect<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

division of the Federation <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> States [Länder], the participation on<br />

pr<strong>in</strong>ciple of the States [Länder] <strong>in</strong> legislation, or the basic pr<strong>in</strong>ciples<br />

laid down <strong>in</strong> Articles 1 [basic rights] and 20 [federalism] are<br />

<strong>in</strong>admissible.”<br />

• India: Article 368 of the Indian <strong>Constitution</strong> (authoriz<strong>in</strong>g amendments)<br />

allows the Parliament <strong>to</strong> amend any part of the constitution, but “does<br />

not enable Parliament <strong>to</strong> alter its basic structure or the framework of<br />

the <strong>Constitution</strong>.” The Supreme Court of India has also adopted the<br />

concept of unconstitutional constitutional amendment by articulat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

that there is a “basic structure” <strong>to</strong> the Indian <strong>Constitution</strong>. If an otherwise<br />

permitted amendment were <strong>to</strong> violate this basic structure, the Court<br />

can <strong>in</strong>validate it.<br />

• Turkey: the provisions mak<strong>in</strong>g the state a Republic (Art 1), mak<strong>in</strong>g it<br />

democratic, secular and social, and declar<strong>in</strong>g its language <strong>to</strong> be Turkish,<br />

settl<strong>in</strong>g its flag and its capi<strong>to</strong>l, are all unamendable.<br />

• Namibia: Art. 131 of the <strong>Constitution</strong> prohibits the repeal or<br />

amendment of any constitutional provision <strong>in</strong> so far as this dim<strong>in</strong>ishes<br />

or detracts from the fundamental rights and freedoms conta<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong> the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

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Background<br />

Its amend<strong>in</strong>g procedure is the key <strong>to</strong> any constitution. Federal states have<br />

procedures for amend<strong>in</strong>g the federal constitution that reflect the federal<br />

character of the state and the limited sovereignty of the prov<strong>in</strong>ces. Sometimes,<br />

the amend<strong>in</strong>g procedures give the prov<strong>in</strong>ces a role <strong>in</strong> all amendments – but<br />

sometimes not. Amendment procedures usually provide that the powers of<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ces cannot be changed without <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g them <strong>in</strong> the process, either<br />

through their legislatures or directly through their people <strong>in</strong> a referendum.<br />

Another option is the consent of a second chamber that represents the <strong>in</strong>terest<br />

of the prov<strong>in</strong>ces.<br />

Issue 1: Should prov<strong>in</strong>ces have a role <strong>in</strong> all amendments <strong>to</strong><br />

the national constitution?<br />


A. Yes Enhances the role of<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ces.<br />

Ensures widespread<br />

support for amendments.<br />

Makes the constitution<br />

more difficult <strong>to</strong> amend. In<br />

such cases, alternatives <strong>to</strong><br />

formal constitutional<br />

change are frequently<br />

sought <strong>to</strong> adapt federations<br />

<strong>to</strong> chang<strong>in</strong>g circumstances.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


B. No, their<br />

role should<br />

be restricted<br />

<strong>to</strong> situations<br />

where the<br />

amendment<br />

directly<br />

affects the<br />

powers of<br />

the prov<strong>in</strong>ce<br />

Clearly separates the<br />

national and the prov<strong>in</strong>cial<br />

spheres.<br />

Allows for easier<br />

amendment <strong>to</strong> the<br />

national constitution.<br />

Ignores the general <strong>in</strong>terest<br />

that prov<strong>in</strong>ces have <strong>in</strong> the<br />

organization of the entire<br />

state<br />

May leave the prov<strong>in</strong>ce<br />

out of certa<strong>in</strong> ‘gray areas’<br />

that affect it – for example,<br />

the judiciary<br />

Commentary<br />

There is no universal practice. It is common practice for prov<strong>in</strong>ces <strong>to</strong> have a<br />

role <strong>in</strong> the amendment of the national constitution. This is more common <strong>in</strong><br />

‘com<strong>in</strong>g <strong>to</strong>gether’ federations than <strong>in</strong> formerly unitary states. In most federal<br />

countries, the constituent units participate <strong>in</strong> federal legislation through a<br />

second chamber of parliament which is formed by representatives of the<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ces. Some federal constitutions also give no specific role <strong>to</strong> constituent<br />

units <strong>in</strong> <strong>Constitution</strong>al changes that do not affect them.<br />

• United States: all amendments require the approval of 2/3 of the<br />

members <strong>in</strong> both national houses, plus ¾ of the states.<br />

• Canada: the general formula requires approval of both houses, plus<br />

the approval of 7 prov<strong>in</strong>ces hav<strong>in</strong>g 50% of the population (the sevenfifty<br />

rule) for all amendments.<br />

• Spa<strong>in</strong>: allows strong powers <strong>to</strong> its au<strong>to</strong>nomous communities; however,<br />

they have no role <strong>in</strong> amend<strong>in</strong>g the constitution which is amended by<br />

special majority <strong>in</strong> both houses, with the possibility that 1/10 of the<br />

members of the lower house may call for referendum.<br />

• India: generally, the constitution may be amended by a special majority<br />

of Parliament without the consent of the states. Because of the structure<br />

of political parties <strong>in</strong> India, such an amendment would be difficult <strong>in</strong><br />

practice without substantial support at the state level.<br />

• Australia requires double majorities of those vot<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> a national<br />

referendum on changes <strong>to</strong> the federal constitution: a national majority<br />

plus majorities <strong>in</strong> four of the six states.<br />

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Issue 2: Should prov<strong>in</strong>ces have a special role <strong>in</strong> amendments<br />

that affect them?<br />


Yes<br />

Recognizes the limited<br />

sovereignty of prov<strong>in</strong>ces<br />

Makes the constitution<br />

more difficult <strong>to</strong> amend. In<br />

such cases, alternatives <strong>to</strong><br />

formal constitutional<br />

change are frequently<br />

sought <strong>to</strong> adapt federations<br />

<strong>to</strong> chang<strong>in</strong>g circumstances.<br />

No<br />

Simplifies governance and<br />

speeds up constitutional<br />

amendments<br />

This would effectively do<br />

away with one of the<br />

essential features of a<br />

federal system. Such a<br />

system would be federal<br />

only <strong>in</strong> name.<br />

Commentary<br />

Federations vary greatly <strong>in</strong> how much consent is necessary <strong>to</strong> change the<br />

powers of all constituent units: this can range from not much more than a<br />

majority <strong>to</strong> virtual unanimity. Federal constitutions can afford a ve<strong>to</strong>-role <strong>to</strong><br />

the constituent units <strong>in</strong> question. Such ve<strong>to</strong> rules tend <strong>to</strong> be restricted <strong>to</strong> the<br />

existence of the prov<strong>in</strong>ce as such, changes of boundaries and its possible<br />

merger <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> another.<br />

• South Africa: special majorities <strong>in</strong> the lower house plus the consent<br />

of 6 of 9 prov<strong>in</strong>ces for amendments affect<strong>in</strong>g prov<strong>in</strong>ces.<br />

• Canada: any prov<strong>in</strong>ce may ‘opt out’ of an amendment affect<strong>in</strong>g its<br />

powers and has <strong>in</strong> effect a ve<strong>to</strong> over amendments concern<strong>in</strong>g the office<br />

of the Queen, the use of French or <strong>English</strong> <strong>in</strong> the prov<strong>in</strong>ce and the<br />

composition of the Supreme Court of Canada. Amendments that affect<br />

some but not all prov<strong>in</strong>ces, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g boundaries or the use of French<br />

or <strong>English</strong> with<strong>in</strong> the prov<strong>in</strong>ce, must be approved by the prov<strong>in</strong>ce or<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ces affected.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


• India: one-half of state legislatures must ratify by special majority<br />

any change <strong>to</strong> the powers of the Union, the judiciary, the Panchayats<br />

or certa<strong>in</strong> other matters.<br />

• Austria: “<strong>Constitution</strong>al laws […] restrict<strong>in</strong>g the competence of the<br />

Länder [i.e. prov<strong>in</strong>ces] <strong>in</strong> legislation or execution require the approval<br />

of the Federal Council [made up of Prov<strong>in</strong>ce representatives] which<br />

must be imparted <strong>in</strong> the presence of at least half the members and by a<br />

two thirds majority of the votes cast.” Furthermore, the provisions of<br />

the articles regulat<strong>in</strong>g the composition of the Federal Council “can only<br />

be amended if <strong>in</strong> the Federal Council the majority of the representatives<br />

from at least four Länder has approved the amendment.”<br />

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Background<br />

In a referendum, citizens vote on some important public issue. Referendums<br />

can be <strong>in</strong>itiated <strong>in</strong> many ways and take many forms, but most democracies<br />

have at some time held referendums. In a few countries, referendums have<br />

become a regular part of Government (e.g. Switzerland).<br />

Referendums may have b<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g legal effect, or they may simply give the advice<br />

of the people <strong>to</strong> the government. In some countries, a popular “Yes” may be<br />

required before a law or constitutional change is put <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> effect.<br />

Examples from around the world show that referendums can help defuse<br />

tensions that ord<strong>in</strong>ary rout<strong>in</strong>es of politics seem <strong>in</strong>adequate <strong>to</strong> manage. That<br />

is however only the case if referendums follow the same strict standards and<br />

procedures as genu<strong>in</strong>e democratic elections.<br />

Issue 1: Should there be a referendum or direct democracy<br />

procedure <strong>in</strong> the <strong>Constitution</strong>?<br />


A. Yes Ensures a strong role for<br />

the people <strong>in</strong> changes <strong>to</strong><br />

the <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

May be destabiliz<strong>in</strong>g if<br />

people are allowed <strong>to</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>itiate a referendum.<br />

Where all constitutional<br />

amendments require a<br />

referendum, amendments<br />

are difficult and costly <strong>to</strong><br />

achieve. People lack the<br />

<strong>in</strong>formation or analytical<br />

skills <strong>to</strong> make an <strong>in</strong>formed<br />

decision.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


B. No Prevents populist decisions<br />

by majorities which may<br />

harm m<strong>in</strong>ority <strong>in</strong>terests or<br />

the long term <strong>in</strong>terests of<br />

the nation.<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> and its<br />

amendments may lose<br />

popular legitimacy if they<br />

are perceived as not<br />

carried by a wide popular<br />

back<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Commentary<br />

There is no general rule whether democratic constitutions require referendums<br />

for constitutional amendments. Some countries require popular endorsement<br />

of amendments that constitute a <strong>to</strong>tal revision of the <strong>Constitution</strong>, and some<br />

have specific rules related amendments <strong>to</strong> the distribution of powers <strong>in</strong> a<br />

federal structure.<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: There is no provision for referendum <strong>in</strong> the Interim <strong>Constitution</strong>,<br />

other than as a possibility mentioned for approval of the new<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>. Art 157: “[…] if the Constituent Assembly decides by a<br />

two-thirds majority of the <strong>to</strong>tal number of exist<strong>in</strong>g members that it is<br />

necessary <strong>to</strong> make a decision on any matters of national importance, a<br />

decision may be reached on such matters through referendum.”<br />

• Switzerland: referendums are a strong feature of Swiss constitutional<br />

his<strong>to</strong>ry and current procedure. Any revision <strong>to</strong> the national constitution<br />

must be submitted <strong>to</strong> a referendum. About half of all referendums<br />

worldwide have been held <strong>in</strong> Switzerland.<br />

• Australia: All amendments must be passed <strong>in</strong> both a national<br />

referendum and <strong>in</strong> state referendums; <strong>in</strong> the state referendums, there<br />

must be approval by a majority of voters <strong>in</strong> a majority of states.<br />

Referendums have been held frequently <strong>in</strong> the past.<br />

• Europe: In Western Europe, The <strong>Constitution</strong>s of Austria, Denmark,<br />

F<strong>in</strong>land, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal,<br />

Spa<strong>in</strong>, Sweden and Switzerland mention referendums <strong>in</strong> their<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>s. Referendums are required for <strong>Constitution</strong>al amendments<br />

<strong>in</strong> Austria and Spa<strong>in</strong> (for <strong>to</strong>tal revision), France (as one form of<br />

amend<strong>in</strong>g procedure), Ireland, and Switzerland. In Eastern Europe and<br />

the former Soviet Union, referendums were a frequently used <strong>to</strong>ol <strong>in</strong><br />

the transition <strong>to</strong> democracy <strong>in</strong> the 1990s and <strong>in</strong> the establishment of<br />

new constitutional orders. In former Yugoslavia, referendums <strong>in</strong> the<br />

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ethnic Republics led <strong>to</strong> the dissolution of the federal state and the<br />

outbreak of <strong>in</strong>ter-ethnic wars <strong>in</strong> the 1990s.<br />

• In the United States, voters <strong>in</strong> all States but Delaware must formally<br />

approve changes <strong>in</strong> the state constitution, and voters <strong>in</strong> some States<br />

sometimes cast ballots on proposed amendments <strong>to</strong> the US <strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

State legislatures often place legislative referendums on the ballot.<br />

• Asia and Africa: Referendums for constitutional amendments have<br />

been used <strong>in</strong> Algeria, Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Morocco, Senegal,<br />

Sierra Leone, South Africa, Syria, Zambia, Bangladesh, Philipp<strong>in</strong>es,<br />

South Korea, and others. Also Lat<strong>in</strong> America and other regions have<br />

seen frequent referendums on constitutional changes.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />



Background<br />

Most constitutions conta<strong>in</strong> provisions which governments can use <strong>to</strong> declare<br />

a State of Emergency when the defense or security of the state is threatened<br />

due <strong>to</strong> natural disaster, civil disorder or war. Dur<strong>in</strong>g a State of Emergency the<br />

government may suspend all or parts of the constitution, aspects of civil<br />

liberties and certa<strong>in</strong> normal functions and processes of government. In federal<br />

countries the state of emergency has been used by the federal government <strong>to</strong><br />

adm<strong>in</strong>ister the prov<strong>in</strong>ces directly.<br />

Issue 1: What criteria should exist <strong>to</strong> def<strong>in</strong>e state of<br />

emergency ?<br />


A. No clear<br />

criteria <strong>to</strong><br />

def<strong>in</strong>e State<br />

of<br />

Emergency<br />

B. Clear<br />

criteria<br />

needed <strong>to</strong><br />

def<strong>in</strong>e State<br />

of<br />

Emergency<br />

Government has flexibility<br />

<strong>to</strong> <strong>in</strong>tervene if it feels that<br />

there is an imm<strong>in</strong>ent threat<br />

<strong>to</strong> the state and <strong>to</strong><br />

governability<br />

Government will not be<br />

able <strong>to</strong> suspend the<br />

constitution or rights<br />

arbitrarily<br />

Governments could abuse<br />

their power and declare a<br />

State of Emergency without<br />

real cause; People’s rights<br />

could be suspended<br />

arbitrarily.<br />

Government may not be<br />

able <strong>to</strong> respond rapidly and<br />

sufficiently forceful <strong>to</strong><br />

threats <strong>to</strong> public security.<br />

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Commentary<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> (Art. 143) <strong>in</strong>cludes a provision for<br />

the exercise of authority <strong>in</strong> case of a grave emergency caused by war,<br />

external aggression, armed rebellion or extreme economic disarray. In<br />

such a case, the President may, on the recommendation of the Council<br />

of M<strong>in</strong>isters, declare a State of Emergency <strong>to</strong> be enforced <strong>in</strong> <strong>Nepal</strong> or<br />

any specified part thereof by Proclamation or Order. The President<br />

can also revoke that decision at any time.<br />

• South Africa: limits the declaration of a state of emergency <strong>to</strong><br />

situations <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g a state of war, an immediate threat <strong>to</strong> the<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependence and unity of the state, a severe natural disaster, and<br />

similar events.<br />

• India: limits the declaration of state of emergency <strong>to</strong> the situation<br />

<strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g grave threats <strong>to</strong> the nation from <strong>in</strong>ternal and external sources<br />

or from f<strong>in</strong>ancial situations of crisis caused by war, external aggression<br />

or armed rebellion <strong>in</strong> the whole of India or a part of its terri<strong>to</strong>ry.<br />

• International law context: The specific measures derogat<strong>in</strong>g from<br />

an <strong>in</strong>ternational treaty need <strong>to</strong> be officially notified <strong>to</strong> the competent<br />

<strong>in</strong>ternational organization and other States parties. Derogation is<br />

permissible only <strong>to</strong> the extent strictly required by the situation. The<br />

derogation is lifted as soon as the situation permits.<br />

Issue 2: Protection and restriction of basic rights dur<strong>in</strong>g state<br />

of emergency<br />


A. Suspension<br />

of all<br />

rights or<br />

wide marg<strong>in</strong><br />

of discretion<br />

<strong>to</strong> executive<br />

power<br />

Gives the government all<br />

required powers <strong>to</strong> respond<br />

strongly <strong>to</strong> the state of<br />

emergency;<br />

Risk of violation of people’s<br />

rights and violation of<br />

article 4 of ICCPR 1966;<br />

disproportionate use of<br />

force, limitation of rights<br />

might lead <strong>to</strong> further<br />

destabilization.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


B. Protection<br />

of<br />

fundamental<br />

rights<br />

Ensures that people’s basic<br />

fundamental rights can<br />

not be threatened even <strong>in</strong><br />

times of emergency. Right<br />

<strong>to</strong> life and <strong>to</strong> a fair trial,<br />

freedom from <strong>to</strong>rture, nondiscrim<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

are basic<br />

rights that cannot be taken<br />

away even <strong>in</strong> an<br />

emergency.<br />

Identification of<br />

fundamental rights that<br />

cannot be taken away<br />

might be contested;<br />

Commentary<br />

In addition <strong>to</strong> specify<strong>in</strong>g which rights may be suspended dur<strong>in</strong>g a state of<br />

emergency, many constitutions also specify which rights may not be<br />

suspended. The UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “<strong>in</strong><br />

time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the<br />

existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties may take measures<br />

derogat<strong>in</strong>g from their obligations <strong>to</strong> the extent strictly required by the exigencies<br />

of the situation, provided that such measures are not <strong>in</strong>consistent with their<br />

other obligations under <strong>in</strong>ternational law and do not <strong>in</strong>volve discrim<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social orig<strong>in</strong>.”<br />

A number of fundamental rights cannot be suspended. States must also<br />

immediately <strong>in</strong>form the other States Parties through the UN Secretary-General.<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: Dur<strong>in</strong>g the State of Emergency, a number of fundamental rights<br />

may be suspended, with the exception of the follow<strong>in</strong>g: right <strong>to</strong> live<br />

with dignity, ban on capital punishment, right <strong>to</strong> personal liberty,<br />

freedom <strong>to</strong> form a political party, unions and associations, right <strong>to</strong><br />

equality, right aga<strong>in</strong>st un<strong>to</strong>uchability and racial discrim<strong>in</strong>ation, right<br />

for broadcasters and pr<strong>in</strong>t media not be closed because of the content<br />

of its materials, rights regard<strong>in</strong>g the environment and health, education<br />

and cultural rights, rights regard<strong>in</strong>g employment and social security,<br />

rights of women, right <strong>to</strong> social justice, rights of children, right <strong>to</strong><br />

religion, rights regard<strong>in</strong>g justice, rights aga<strong>in</strong>st <strong>to</strong>rture, right aga<strong>in</strong>st<br />

exploitation, right regard<strong>in</strong>g labour, right aga<strong>in</strong>st exile and the right <strong>to</strong><br />

constitutional remedy related <strong>to</strong> Article 32 as well as the right <strong>to</strong> Habeas<br />

Corpus.<br />

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• United States: permits certa<strong>in</strong> fundamental rights <strong>to</strong> be suspended<br />

only <strong>in</strong> the case of rebellion, <strong>in</strong>vasion, or when needed <strong>to</strong> ensure the<br />

public safety.<br />

• Switzerland: requires that limitations <strong>to</strong> fundamental rights be<br />

expressly provided for <strong>in</strong> a statute, except <strong>in</strong> cases of clear and present<br />

danger.<br />

• Spa<strong>in</strong>: permits the suspension of some provisions for personal liberty,<br />

freedom from search and seizure, freedom of movement, freedom of<br />

speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom <strong>to</strong> strike dur<strong>in</strong>g states of<br />

emergency, but leaves other fundamental rights <strong>in</strong>tact & such limitation<br />

of fundamental rights must be justified by public <strong>in</strong>terest, be<br />

proportional, and ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> the essence of the fundamental rights.<br />

• Albania: prohibits all amendments <strong>to</strong> the constitution.<br />

• Mongolia: limits allowable restrictions <strong>to</strong> those that do not perta<strong>in</strong> <strong>to</strong><br />

fundamental rights such as the right <strong>to</strong> life, prohibition of <strong>to</strong>rture, cruel<br />

or degrad<strong>in</strong>g treatment or punishment, or the legal def<strong>in</strong>itions of penal<br />

offenses and punishments.<br />

• South Africa: provides example of table of non derogable rights <strong>in</strong><br />

which Equality, Human dignity, Life, Freedom and Security of the<br />

person, Slavery, Servitude and forced labour, Children, Arrested,<br />

deta<strong>in</strong>ed and accused persons cannot be suspended dur<strong>in</strong>g state of<br />

emergency.<br />

• Mauritania: prohibits the dissolution or suspension of any state organs<br />

or their powers under the constitution dur<strong>in</strong>g a state of emergency.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Issue 3: Authority <strong>to</strong> declare state of emergency<br />


A. Head of<br />

State<br />

B. Head of<br />

Government<br />

C. Parliament<br />

/<br />

legislature<br />

If head of State & head of<br />

government are not the<br />

same, there is some check<br />

on abuse as they will have<br />

<strong>to</strong> consult with each other.<br />

A quick response <strong>to</strong> the<br />

situation is possible.<br />

Easier <strong>to</strong> handle the<br />

situation<br />

Debate & discussion<br />

If head of the state and<br />

head of the government are<br />

the same person then more<br />

chances <strong>to</strong> misuse the<br />

power.<br />

High risk of misuse of<br />

power<br />

Political issues may<br />

<strong>in</strong>terfere with the need <strong>to</strong><br />

react quickly and decisively<br />

<strong>in</strong> an emergency<br />

Commentary<br />

• In <strong>Nepal</strong> the President on the recommendation of the council of<br />

m<strong>in</strong>isters may issues such orders as are necessary.<br />

• Afghanistan, Mauritania and other post-conflict states vest this power<br />

solely <strong>in</strong> the executive branch. Other states require broader consensus.<br />

• Albania requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds majority of the<br />

Assembly, with a cont<strong>in</strong>gency plan <strong>in</strong> case the legislature is unable <strong>to</strong><br />

meet.<br />

• In India, the President declared a State of Emergency upon the advice<br />

of the Prime M<strong>in</strong>ister Indira Gandhi on 26 June 1975. In her own<br />

words, democracy was brought “<strong>to</strong> a gr<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g halt”. As the constitution<br />

requires, the Prime M<strong>in</strong>ister advised President Ahmed <strong>to</strong> approve the<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>uation of Emergency every six-months until her decision <strong>to</strong> hold<br />

elections <strong>in</strong> 1977. The emergency was declared <strong>to</strong> save the Prime<br />

M<strong>in</strong>ister from an unfavorable elec<strong>to</strong>ral rul<strong>in</strong>g and was not related <strong>to</strong><br />

any real national emergency.<br />

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Issue 4: Authority <strong>to</strong> review state of emergency<br />


Courts<br />

Legislature<br />

No review<br />

Additional protection<br />

aga<strong>in</strong>st the abuse of<br />

power<br />

Additional protection<br />

aga<strong>in</strong>st the abuse of power<br />

Quick governmental action<br />

possible<br />

Courts may not understand<br />

the political & security<br />

issues and the delays may<br />

cause additional problems<br />

for effective governance<br />

The government <strong>in</strong> power<br />

is likely <strong>to</strong> have a majority<br />

which will endorse the<br />

emergency – so no real<br />

control aga<strong>in</strong>st abuse of<br />

power; May be a<br />

complicated process and<br />

will impede fast action <strong>in</strong><br />

an emergency<br />

No checks or balances<br />

aga<strong>in</strong>st abuse of power<br />

Commentary<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The Proclamation or the Order must be laid before the meet<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of the Legislature-Parliament for approval with<strong>in</strong> a month from the date<br />

of its issuance. If it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the members<br />

of the Legislature-Parliament present at the meet<strong>in</strong>g such Proclamation<br />

or Order cont<strong>in</strong>ues <strong>in</strong> force for a period of another three months, and<br />

can be extended once <strong>in</strong> the same manner. Otherwise, the Proclamation<br />

or Order au<strong>to</strong>matically ceases <strong>to</strong> operate.<br />

• Albania requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds majority of the<br />

Assembly, with a cont<strong>in</strong>gency plan <strong>in</strong> case the legislature is unable <strong>to</strong><br />

meet.<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />




Background<br />

Outside of <strong>Nepal</strong>, few if any constitutions assign <strong>to</strong> anyone a broad power <strong>to</strong><br />

“remove difficulties <strong>in</strong> the implementation of the constitution”. It is obvious<br />

that such a broad power conta<strong>in</strong>s the potential for abuse, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g takeover<br />

of the state. It is clear, however, that there may be circumstances <strong>in</strong> which it<br />

is difficult or impossible for the state <strong>to</strong> comply with the ord<strong>in</strong>ary requirements<br />

of the constitution. These <strong>in</strong>clude: (i) state of emergency: what <strong>to</strong> do when<br />

the mach<strong>in</strong>ery of the state or one of its organs fails? Or where extraord<strong>in</strong>ary<br />

circumstances such as war, <strong>in</strong>surrection or natural disaster threaten the safety<br />

of the people? [this issue is dealt with <strong>in</strong> a separate brief<strong>in</strong>g note <strong>in</strong> this series<br />

entitled “State of Emergency”]; (2) what <strong>to</strong> do when there is ambiguity about<br />

what the constitution requires and Government cannot act? and (3)<br />

transitional provisions – should there be special powers <strong>to</strong> ensure the<br />

function<strong>in</strong>g of the state dur<strong>in</strong>g the period <strong>in</strong> which a new constitution is be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

implemented?<br />

Issue 1: Should power <strong>to</strong> ‘remove difficulties’ be reta<strong>in</strong>ed,<br />

elim<strong>in</strong>ated or limited?<br />


A. Reta<strong>in</strong><br />

this power<br />

Creates the maximum<br />

flexibility for the State <strong>to</strong><br />

act if it considers that the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> cannot be<br />

followed.<br />

Creates the maximum<br />

opportunity for the abuse<br />

of power, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

takeover of the State.<br />

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B. Elim<strong>in</strong>ate<br />

this<br />

power<br />

C. Limit<br />

this power<br />

Reduces the risk of abuse<br />

power<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>al ambiguity<br />

and transitional<br />

requirements can be<br />

addressed.<br />

The well-be<strong>in</strong>g of the<br />

people may be at risk if<br />

Government is unable <strong>to</strong><br />

act because of uncerta<strong>in</strong>ty<br />

or disagreement about the<br />

scope of a constitutional<br />

power, or if there are<br />

urgent transitional<br />

requirements.<br />

Does not elim<strong>in</strong>ate the<br />

potential for abuse of<br />

power.<br />

Commentary<br />

A broad power <strong>to</strong> “remove difficulties <strong>in</strong> the implementation of the constitution”<br />

creates the risk of abuse of power. Where the problem is that there is a ‘state<br />

of emergency’ requir<strong>in</strong>g emergency measures, a more limited power can address<br />

the issues of who can declare a state of emergency? under what circumstances?<br />

with what power? and with what oversight? [see the brief<strong>in</strong>g note “State of<br />

Emergency”]. Sometimes the problem is that the government cannot move<br />

forward because there is uncerta<strong>in</strong>ty about what the constitution requires or<br />

permits, the parties cannot agree, and there is not enough time for constitutional<br />

amendment. In such cases, some countries use the technique of a ‘reference’<br />

<strong>to</strong> the Courts. Sometimes, particularly <strong>in</strong> transitional phases, it may be<br />

desirable for the Government <strong>to</strong> take steps before all necessary legislation is<br />

<strong>in</strong> place. In such circumstances, transitional powers may be desirable.<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The 1990 constitution (Art. 127) gave the K<strong>in</strong>g the absolute<br />

power <strong>to</strong> issue necessary orders if there were difficulties <strong>in</strong> connection<br />

with the implementation of the <strong>Constitution</strong>. Such orders were<br />

eventually <strong>to</strong> be laid before Parliament. The K<strong>in</strong>g used this power <strong>to</strong><br />

dismiss the government and assume absolute power. The 2007 Interim<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> conta<strong>in</strong>s a similar broad power: “If any difficulty arises <strong>in</strong><br />

connection with the implementation of this constitution, the President<br />

on the recommendation of the Council of M<strong>in</strong>isters may issue necessary<br />

Orders <strong>to</strong> remove such difficulties, and such Orders require endorsement<br />

by the Legislature-Parliament with<strong>in</strong> a month.”<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


Issue 2: Is it desirable <strong>to</strong> permit references <strong>to</strong> the Courts <strong>to</strong><br />

clarify ambiguities <strong>in</strong> the <strong>Constitution</strong>?<br />


A. Yes References can clarify<br />

ambiguity and<br />

misunderstand<strong>in</strong>g about<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong>. References<br />

can resolve constitutional<br />

issues before new laws are<br />

implemented, ultimately<br />

sav<strong>in</strong>g time and money<br />

B. No Forces political ac<strong>to</strong>rs <strong>to</strong><br />

f<strong>in</strong>d some resolution <strong>to</strong><br />

their dilemma<br />

If this power is used <strong>to</strong>o<br />

frequently, it can<br />

discourage political debate<br />

and compromise.<br />

Requires courts that are<br />

capable and <strong>in</strong>dependent.<br />

When the political ac<strong>to</strong>rs<br />

cannot resolve the problem,<br />

the Government may be<br />

paralysed.<br />

Commentary<br />

No <strong>Constitution</strong> provides a clear answer <strong>to</strong> all questions. <strong>Constitution</strong>s are<br />

often ambiguous, sometimes <strong>in</strong>tentionally because the drafters could not<br />

resolve a problem and decided <strong>to</strong> leave it for later consideration. Many<br />

countries permit their government <strong>to</strong> seek the advice of the highest courts <strong>to</strong><br />

resolve such ambiguities, and for other purposes.<br />

• Canada: All governments have the power <strong>to</strong> refer <strong>to</strong> their highest court<br />

any matter on which it requires the advice of the Court. Usually, these<br />

are op<strong>in</strong>ions about planned legislation. Governments have asked for<br />

the op<strong>in</strong>ion of the Courts <strong>in</strong> connection proposed legislation concern<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the <strong>in</strong>dependence of Quebec, gay marriage, and economic emergency<br />

aris<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>in</strong>flation <strong>in</strong> the economy. In Canada, the power can also be<br />

used <strong>to</strong> exam<strong>in</strong>e past cases where there is concern that there may have<br />

been a wrong decision by the court.<br />

• South Africa: The <strong>Constitution</strong>al Court is the highest court <strong>in</strong> all<br />

constitutional matters; may decide only constitutional matters, and<br />

issues connected with decisions on constitutional matters; and makes<br />

the f<strong>in</strong>al decision whether a matter is a constitutional matter or whether<br />

an issue is connected with a decision on a constitutional matter. A<br />

constitutional matter <strong>in</strong>cludes any issue <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>in</strong>terpretation,<br />

protection or enforcement of the <strong>Constitution</strong>.<br />

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Issue 3: Is it desirable for the State <strong>to</strong> have transitional<br />

powers <strong>to</strong> implement the <strong>Constitution</strong>?<br />


A. Provided<br />

Government<br />

with limited<br />

powers <strong>in</strong><br />

the<br />

transition <strong>to</strong><br />

full<br />

implementation<br />

of the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong><br />

Can make constitutional<br />

implementation go faster<br />

Creates the risk of abuse of<br />

power - Governments may<br />

simply issue transitional<br />

orders <strong>in</strong>stead of actually<br />

implement<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong><br />

B. No Everyth<strong>in</strong>g that<br />

Government does is done<br />

with the full protection of<br />

the system of checks and<br />

balances required under<br />

the <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

The restructur<strong>in</strong>g of the<br />

federal state may be unduly<br />

delayed.<br />

Commentary<br />

This question deserves more detailed consideration. It should be noted that<br />

constitutions often have transitional provisions that govern when and how<br />

they come <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> effect, and how Government carries on until they are fully<br />

implemented. These are necessary <strong>to</strong> facilitate the function<strong>in</strong>g of the state<br />

while the mach<strong>in</strong>ery of government is be<strong>in</strong>g built. They should be structured<br />

<strong>in</strong> such a way that the transitional actions of the government are open and<br />

transparent and subject <strong>to</strong> review by Parliament and/or the Courts.<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: Part 23 of the Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> is called ‘Transitional<br />

Provisions’ and deals with the cont<strong>in</strong>uation of exist<strong>in</strong>g laws, the mak<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of judicial decisions on cases filed before the Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> came<br />

<strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> effect, the nationalization of royal property, and other matters.<br />

• India: Article 392 provides for a ‘power <strong>to</strong> remove difficulties’. However,<br />

it is clear that the provision applied <strong>to</strong> the transition from colonial rule<br />

<strong>to</strong> the implementation of the new Indian <strong>Constitution</strong>; authorized only<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


orders consistent with the implementation of the new constitution; and<br />

had <strong>to</strong> be laid before Parliament where it could be considered and<br />

possibly rejected.<br />

• South Africa: Schedule 6 conta<strong>in</strong>s detailed transitional provisions.<br />

An important one deals with executive power that existed before the<br />

new constitution. It provides:<br />

• 15 (1) An authority with<strong>in</strong> the national executive that adm<strong>in</strong>isters<br />

any legislation fall<strong>in</strong>g outside Parliament’s legislative power when<br />

the new <strong>Constitution</strong> takes effect, rema<strong>in</strong>s competent <strong>to</strong><br />

adm<strong>in</strong>ister that legislation until it is assigned <strong>to</strong> an authority with<strong>in</strong><br />

a prov<strong>in</strong>cial executive <strong>in</strong> terms of item 14 of this Schedule.<br />

• (2) Subitem (1) lapses two years after the new <strong>Constitution</strong> <strong>to</strong>ok<br />

effect.<br />

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Background<br />

Some countries have written constitutions; others do not. Where constitutions<br />

are written, they may be conta<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong> one law, or <strong>in</strong> more than one. Where<br />

constitutions are <strong>in</strong> a s<strong>in</strong>gle law, the <strong>Constitution</strong> usually gives itself a name.<br />

In the case of <strong>Nepal</strong>, both the current Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> and the 1990<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> are embodied <strong>in</strong> a s<strong>in</strong>gle law. In each case, an article of the<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> gives the <strong>Constitution</strong> its name.<br />

Issue 1: Should the name of the <strong>Constitution</strong> be specified<br />

with<strong>in</strong> the text of the <strong>Constitution</strong>?<br />


A. Yes Clarity, standardization May not be used <strong>in</strong><br />

practice if long and<br />

complicated<br />

B. No <strong>Constitution</strong> will be known<br />

by its title<br />

Possibility for confusion<br />

and misunderstand<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Commentary<br />

There is no fixed pr<strong>in</strong>ciple.<br />

• <strong>Nepal</strong>: The <strong>in</strong>terim constitution specifies <strong>in</strong> Art. 166 that “this<br />

<strong>Constitution</strong> shall be called “The Interim <strong>Constitution</strong> of <strong>Nepal</strong>, 2063”<br />

[2007]. The 1990 constitution stated <strong>in</strong> Art. 133 that “this <strong>Constitution</strong><br />

may be called “The <strong>Constitution</strong> of The K<strong>in</strong>gdom of <strong>Nepal</strong>, 2047”<br />

[1990].<br />

Information Package on <strong>Constitution</strong>al Issues<br />


• Belgium: The <strong>Constitution</strong> of Belgium is a short and simple title. The<br />

country’s characteristics as a federal monarchy are not reflected.<br />

• Some countries have official names that are longer and more descriptive,<br />

and that name is <strong>in</strong>corporated <strong>in</strong><strong>to</strong> the name of the constitution, for<br />

example, the ‘<strong>Constitution</strong> of the People’s Republic of Ch<strong>in</strong>a’.<br />

• Switzerland: Federal <strong>Constitution</strong> of the Swiss Confederation: The<br />

title of the constitution also reflects the type of state.<br />

• Cambodia: The <strong>Constitution</strong> of the K<strong>in</strong>gdom of Cambodia,<br />

<strong>in</strong>corporates the name of the state which aga<strong>in</strong> reflects the character of<br />

the state with its monarch as the head of State<br />

• South Africa: The <strong>Constitution</strong> of the Republic of South Africa,<br />

1996 is designated as the short title <strong>in</strong> South Africa’s constitution.<br />

• Venezuela: The title of the <strong>Constitution</strong> of Republic of Venezuela was<br />

changed <strong>to</strong> the “<strong>Constitution</strong> of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”<br />

when the official name of the country was changed.<br />

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