I have been following the interesting debate in Nepali Times about the constitutional ambiguity regarding who is in charge of the army (#11,12). The provision in the Constitution of Nepal 1990 regarding the Royal Nepal Army provides for a National Defence Council under the chairmanship of the prime minister with the defence minister and the commander-in-chief as members. The supreme command of the armed forces is vested in the King, but this is far less than those of the American president or of the English crown. The Constitution clearly states that the king shall operate and use the Royal Nepal Army on the recommendation of National Defence Council. Article 118-(3) states that "The establishment and management of the Royal Nepal Army, and other matters relating thereto shall be as determined as law." This means that although the king may have the power to declare war or peace it is competent for parliament to regulate or control the exercise of such powers. The king's role as supreme commander cannot be construed as a power independent of legislative control, since as a constitutional monarch he has to act on the advice of an elected prime minister. The Constitution enjoins that certain acts require the king to approach parliament for sanction.
The National Defence Council, as a subcommittee of the Council of Ministers, is a compromise reached during the framing of the present constitution. The role of the prime minister as head of the council of ministers is the most important in the operation of the army. In a modern democracy there cannot be a state within a state, unlike in the days of the warlords. After all, who pays for the armed forces? It is paid for from the coffers of the state, which is furbished by the taxes paid by the Nepali people.