Social inertia and its effect in the implementation of the law in Nepal

social inertia court gabel
Photo: Pexels/ Sora Shimazaki

“Mato suhaudo kanun” is a well-acquainted phrase in the legal fraternity in Nepal. It means contextualised law. However, the premise states how laws nowadays are inorganically transplanted and adopted; it has caused problems. There has been a trend of importing decrees: fashions of laws that artificially brought and transplanted. Such acts have caused a very amusing scenario: the breakdown of the connection between the law and society. 

In Nepal, laws often have a creationist origin than an evolutionary one. Rather than having a gradual development, Nepal’s legal policies have an abrupt ancestry. Then, after being coded in the law, their implementation is left untouched. Such events have made the law flamboyantly fancy and embellished. However, it is nothing other than merely a necklace of pistachios and nuts.

One such instance is Social Practices Reform Act (1976) which tried imposing restrictions on extravagant spending on weddings and other social events. However, the law is left unimplemented. The progressiveness of law is undoubtedly “revolutionary”, but, social inertia renders such progressive policies futile. 

This case shows why social inertia has to be dealt with first in order to implement the law in Nepal.

The connection and disconnection

Laws are marching at an unprecedented pace of reforms and progress, but society cannot keep up with the speed. This situation is the result of a trend in Nepal’s politics. Nepali politics is often fundamentally “revolution-oriented”; Nepali voters are always up for “revolution” rather than “reformation.” Empirical evidence of the claim is in our history, where uprooting the past system is well evident. It is the general trend of our society now: to destroy the past, in a hopeful phantasy of concocting a new “glorious” future. Such political tendency lacks the element of social precedence. 

The idea of social precedence brings us back to Edmund Burke and his dismissal of the French revolution as a political and cultural crime in a speech in the British Parliament. However, more than Burke, it is the grand refute given by Thomas Paine. In Rights of Man, that is famous. The core of Burke’s argument is that social precedence or the continuation of the past with the present is essential for progress. Paine disapproved, but I partially agree with Burke as well as Paine. Social revolutions are also part of a continuation. Hence, the French revolution was a reaction and had organically developed and commenced. However, revolutions that have inorganically evolved will never progress; they will merely self-destroy. 

Zeroing in on Nepal

In the context of Nepal, social revolutions do have a bastion; however, what they lack is an organic development of the movement. Nepal’s political movements are “inspired” by other movements and synthesised to fit the need. But, they are often mismatched. While it might look as if such borrowed movements fulfil the political needs, they often do so. The political movements are based on a country but inspired by others. Organic development is a blossoming movement with the needs of the society itself. However, when a movement borrows elements from other movements, there are bound to be some elements that will misfit. 

In the case of the political system, the French, British, Americans have their elements which had developed according to their own needs and expectations. For example, the Americans invented the presidential system and federal structure to unite all the distant colonies that had their self-governance. Likewise, the British parliament had its evolutions. But, in Nepal, such rationalising is never done: we tried fitting the British model into our polity, and the system did not evolve according to our needs and expectations. Rather, our needs and expectations evolved according to the political system. This is the difference. 

The same problem lies with the laws too. Laws are “revolutionary” and have elements of progressive realisation, but they aren’t “reformative.” Nepali politicians need to revisit themselves and understand that inorganic and artificial adoption of outside practice will never solve our problems. No model can address our qualms besides our own “Nepali model:” inspired and developed by us, that will evolve for us- not us revolving for it. 

Progressiveness is acceptable, but having unimplemented progressive laws is unacceptable- because our statutes are lying to the people, giving false hope and wrong direction. Having unimplemented laws shows state weakness- not glorious progressiveness. Progressiveness lies in action, not words. The government should understand that laws are a reflection of society, not the other way around! 

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Pokharel is a student at Kathmandu School of Law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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