Supreme Court decision on case relating to participation of indigenous peoples in constitution making process deferred again for 4 April

Nepal’s Supreme Court has again deferred its final decision on a case filed by indigenous peoples organizations regarding participation of indigenous peoples’ freely chosen representatives in constitution making process scheduled 4 April. This is the fourth time that the decision has repeatedly been postponed since 3 February citing busy schedule.

In 2009, immediately after the election of Constituent Assembly (CA), different indigenous peoples’ organizations had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court alleging their exclusion of indigenous peoples in constitution making process in contravention of constitutional norms and Nepal’s international treaty obligations. The writ petition formally invoked provisions of International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 and the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) ratified by Nepal and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that Nepal voted in favor of.

In response to related communications from the indigenous peoples organizations to Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Committee and Rapporteur in 2009 and 2010 had repeatedly called for establishment of special mechanism to ensure effective participation of indigenous peoples and obtain their free, prior and informed consent in constitution making process.

Indigenous people had no say in choosing who would represent them in the CA that ultimately failed to produce a new constitution in 2012 as a result of disagreements among political parties on future federal set up of Nepal – a key concern of indigenous peoples. Though the SC decision is coming now after the demise of CA, it will hold great significance for future constitution writing or reform and other decision-making matters of Nepal that affect indigenous rights.

For more information, click here to read about the case on the website of UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or here to see Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples page on Forest Peoples Programme website or here.

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