Nepal Table of Contents
Beginning in 1856, the center of power in Nepal rested with the Rana prime ministers, who retained sovereign power until the revolution of 1950-51 (see The Rana Oligarchy , ch. 1). Many of the nobles who participated in the consultative court called the Assembly of Lords, or Bharadari Sabha, had been slaughtered at the Kot Massacre in 1846. Following his official visit to Britain and Europe in 1851, Jang Bahadur Kunwar (later called Jang Bahadur Rana) began to use the Bharadari Sabha as deliberative body for state affairs. For almost 100 years, this council served as a rubber stamp for the Rana autocracy. The next major effort at institutional development was initiated in 1947 by Padma Shamsher Rana, a liberal prime minister, who appointed a Constitutional Reform Committee to draft the first constitution. Known as the Government of Nepal Constitution Act, 1948, this constitution, written with the help of Indian advisers, superficially changed the Rana system. It established a bicameral legislative body. The entire membership of one house and a majority of the other was selected by the prime minister, who could reject any measure that the legislature might pass. There was a cabinet of at least five members, of whom at least two were chosen from among the few elected members of the legislature.
The act also specified that a panchayat system of local self-government would be inaugurated in the villages, towns, and districts. It enumerated certain fundamental rights and duties, which included freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, and worship; equality before the law; free elementary education for all; and equal and universal suffrage. Despite the appearance of reform, the alterations made in the Rana system by the constitution were slight. The more conservative Ranas perceived the constitution as a dangerous precedent, forced Padma Shamsher to resign, and suspended promulgation of the constitution. The constitution became effective in September 1950 but remained in force only until February 1951, when the Rana monopoly was broken and the creation of a new constitutional system began.
Data as of September 1991