Congress’ Mahat wrong in claiming parties have only moral obligation but no legal compulsion to hold periodic general conventions

Injina Panthi / September 4, 2021

Nepali Congress joint general secretary Prakash Sharan Mahat speaks to Shilapatra. Photo: Youtube screenshot

Nepali Congress joint-general secretary Prakash Sharan Mahat has claimed that his party’s failure to hold its general convention on time had not created a crisis of legitimacy for the party.

In a video interview published on Shilapatra news website on August 30, Mahat, who is also a former foreign minister, said: “There has never been a crisis of legitimacy [for the Nepali Congress]. [That the political parties should hold their general convention in] five and a half years is just a moral binding [obligation] and other political parties have not been fulfilling this obligation. With regard to Congress, since it is a democratic party, the expectations are higher…”

The claim made by Mahat has been found to be false because Nepal’s constitution itself has made it mandatory for political parties to conduct their general conventions on time.

Clause 4 (b) of Article 269 states: “A political party’s constitution must provide for election of each of the office bearers of the party at the federal and province levels at least once every five years, but in the event of failure to hold such elections within five years due to special circumstances, the party’s constitution should make a provision to hold such elections within six months.”

According to this provision, even after including the additional grace period of six months, Nepali Congress should have organized its 14th convention by September.

The party had organized its 13th convention starting March 5, 2016 and the election committee had announced the results on March 19, 2016. So the five years completed on March 19, 2021.

Nepali Congress has now decided to organize its ward level conventions from September 3 and the central convention on November 25-29, 2021.

The general convention of another major party, the CPN-UML, has also been delayed.

Had the party not been merged with the CPN (Maoist Centre) to become Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in May 2018, the CPN-UML’s 9th general convention should have been organized in 2019. But the merger was invalidated by the Supreme Court in March this year and both the parties were restored to their pre-merger statuses.

The CPN-UML has decided to organize its 10th national convention on November 26-28, 2021 although the law allows the party to hold the convention by April 2022.

Also, Section 16 of the Political Parties Act-2017 states that political parties should conduct the elections of their federal and provincial committees every five years. And if a party is unable to conduct the elections within five years due to special circumstances then it should duly inform the Election Commission and conduct the elections within the next six months.

Also, Section 54 of the Political Parties Act-2017 states that any party failing to conduct the elections on time can be subjected to punishments including a fine of up to Rs 50,000 and ban on contesting elections.

The aforementioned constitutional and legal provisions show political parties are legally bound to conduct their general conventions on time. Therefore, Nepali Congress joint general secretary Mahat’s claim that parties have just a moral obligation to conduct their general conventions on time is false.

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