SC asks CIAA to probe property

KATHMANDU: In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court today empowered the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate ‘disproportionate property’ accumulated by public servants prior to 2002.

A five-member full bench of Justices Anup Raj Sharma, Ram Kumar Prasad Shah, Prem Sharma, Mohan Prakash Sitaula and Sushila Karki passed the judgment.

The apex court also authorised the anti-graft authority to probe anyone attempting to hiding property during voluntary declaration of income sources (VDIS) scheme.

Stating that the Corruption Prevention Act, 2002, has given its continuity in criminalising the accumulation of disproportionate property, the bench said the CIAA could take actions against those accumulating such a property.

A division bench of Justices Damodar Prasad Sharma and Rajendra Prasad Koirala had referred to the case Ishwor Pokhrel vs CIAA in the full bench, raising legal question as to whether the 2002 Act was a continuation of the 1960 Act or not and whether one could be investigated even after paying tax under the VDIS scheme.

Pokhrel was convicted by the Special Court and was sentenced to a one year jail term and fine of Rs 3 million. The CIAA, however, had moved the apex court, stating that the Special Court punishment on Pokherl, an under secretary at the Custom Department, was insufficient.

In order to make the anti-graft body more strong, the parliament had promulgated the existing Act in 2002 replacing the 1960 Act.

The Section 20 (1) of the Act has stated that if a public servant failed to produce a legitimate source of income while submitting his property details, he or she would come under the scanner. The same would apply to a public servant whose lifestyle has unreasonably and inappropriately changed through the income accumulated through bribery and corruption.

The apex court has also authorised the anti-graft body to prosecute a civil servant who hides property in the process of voluntary disclosure of income details.

Giving his observations on the verdict, CIAA Commissioner Beda Prasad Siwakoti welcomed the move of the Supreme Court saying that it was a “positive development” in the anti-corruption movement being launched in the country.

"The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has finally been empowered to deal with disproportionate property accumulation and property hiding," Siwakoti added.