The Panchayat Constitution, 1962

The Panchayat Constitution, 1962

By royal proclamation on December 16, 1962, King Mahendra announced a new constitution that radically reformed the 1959 constitution but also adopted many features of the Rana system. Known as the Panchayat Constitution, it was the fourth constitution in fifteen years.

The panchayat system was an institution of great antiquity. Historically, each caste group system of Nepal formed its own panchayat, or council of elders, a sociopolitical organization operational on a village level that could expand to include neighboring districts, or even function on a zonal basis. Although it could be argued that the panchayat system was adopted from India, King Mahendra had argued for its incorporation at the national level as an exponent of Nepalese culture--a worthy and historically correct representation of cultural expression.

The 1962 constitution was based on some elements from other "guided democracy" constitutional experiments--notably "Basic Democracy" in Pakistan, "Guided Democracy" in Indonesia, and the "Dominant Party System" in Egypt. The Panchayat constitution not only codified the irrelevance of political parties, but also declared them illegal.

The 1962 constitution contained a stronger and more explicit statement of royal authority than did previous constitutions. Real power remained with the king, who was the sole source of authority and had the power not only to amend the constitution but also to suspend it by royal proclamation during emergencies. The Council of Ministers, selected from the members of the legislative (Rashtriya Panchayat, or National Panchayat), served as an advisory body to the king. Members of the Rashtriya Panchayat were elected indirectly by the members of local panchayat as well as by the members of professional and class organizations such as the Nepal Workers' Organization, the Nepal Ex-servicemen's Organization, and the Nepal Youth Organization. The constitution abolished all political parties.

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