CIAA gets SC notice on land grab probe

Kathmandu, February 14

The Supreme Court has issued a show cause notice to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, asking it to explain the reasons for not indicting former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai and the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) General Secretary Bishnu Paudel’s son Navin in the Lalita Niwas land grab case.

The show cause notice was issued by a single bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana in response to a case filed by senior advocate Bal Krishna Neupane against the CIAA, Nepal, Bhattarai and other defendants.

The apex court asked the anti-graft body to submit a written reply within 15 days explaining why it decided not to indict Nepal, Bhattarai and Navin in the Lalita Niwas land grab case. The SC listed the case for priority hearing as it needed to be adjudicated urgently.

The CIAA had recently filed a corruption case against 175 individuals, including former deputy prime minister and Nepali Congress Vice-president Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, former ministers Chandradev Joshi and Dambar Shrestha, for their alleged role in Lalita Niwas land grab case.

The CIAA in its charge-sheet had said Nepal, Bhattarai-led Cabinet’s decisions relating to Lalita Niwas land case were Cabinet’s collective policy decision, which was beyond its jurisdiction. Nepal was the prime minister from 25 September 2010 to 5 February 2011 and Bhattarai was the executive head from 29 August 2011 to 13 March 2013.

Neupane cited his own case in which the SC had stated that decisions of the ruling party related to its election manifesto were policy decisions. Neupane argued all decisions of the Cabinet could not be policy decisions and the decisions made by Nepal and Bhattarai’s Cabinet were not policy decisions.

Neupane said he was confident that the apex court would not override its precedent set by eight-member full bench in his case, where the bench said policy decisions were limited to government’s those decisions that were related to the ruling party’s election manifesto.

The CIAA said it was not indicting Navin and the SC Justice Kumar Regmi as they pledged to return the Lalita Niwas land plots to the government. Land Revenue Office, Dillibazar, has already reclaimed the land plots registered in the name of Navin and Regmi. Neupane has argued in his petition that one cannot escape punishment just because he/she agrees to return the property acquired by breaching the law.