Kathmandu, February 8
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority filed charge sheet on Wednesday against 175 individuals for their role in the Lalita Niwas land grab case, but it did not indict two former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai saying the CIAA had no authority to question the legality of the collective decisions of their Cabinets.
The CIAA, however, indicted former ministers Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, Dambar Shrestha and Chandra Dev Joshi for forwarding proposals or signing documents related to the transfer of ownership of Lalita Niwas land.
Jurists, however, say the CIAA’s decision not to indict the two former prime ministers in the Lalita Niwas land grab case was against the spirit of the law.
Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said although the Cabinet had the power to frame policy that could not be questioned by the CIAA, the Cabinet should be held accountable if its decisions were mala fide. “Policy and decisions are two different things. While policies are about general things, decisions are about particular things and they come under the jurisdiction of the CIAA,” Acharya said and added that as Cabinet decisions transferred government land in the name of individuals and bogus land tenants, all Cabinet members whose consent effected the transfer should be held responsible.
Former justice Balaram KC said Section 4 (b) of the CIAA Act that barred the CIAA from questioning policy decisions of the Cabinet was against Article 239 of the constitution. “No office, not even the Cabinet, enjoys immunity if its decision endorses corrupt practice,” he argued.
KC said the judiciary and Parliament that enjoyed immunity for certain acts did not enjoy immunity if their actions endorsed corrupt practices and the same should be the case with the Cabinet. KC said the CIAA’s decision not to indict former prime ministers Nepal and Bhattarai was wrong. “The CIAA violated Article 18 or equality clause of the constitution by choosing not to indict the two former prime ministers and indicting some other former ministers,” he added.
KC also said the CIAA’s decision not to indict Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’s General Secretary Bishnu Paudel’s son Navin Paudel and Justice of Supreme Court Kumar Regmi for purchasing the controversial land just because they told the anti-graft body that they were ready to return the land plots to the government was wrong. “The CIAA could have said that it did not indict Paudel and Regmi because it did not find any evidence of their involvement in corruption, but how could the CIAA say that it was not indicting these people because they were ready to return the land plots?” he wondered.
KC said the CIAA’s selective approach in Lalita Niwas land grab case had raised question over the anti-graft body’s efficiency and its relevance.
A version of this article appears in print on February 09, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.