‘It will be illogical to deprive local level office bearers of their salaries’
Kathmandu, October 19
Lawyers have said that the Supreme Court’s decision to annul provincial laws that allowed local office bearers to draw monthly salaries underlined the need to amend the constitution.
Constitution bench of the SC yesterday annulled provincial laws of six provinces, except Province 1 that allowed local levels to avail facilities.
Senior advocate Surendra Kumar Mahto and advocate Sunil Ranjan Singh said if the constitution was not amended to allow local office bearers to draw their monthly salaries, they would not be able to work properly.
“At least those local office bearers that perform executive duties such as chiefs and deputy chiefs should get monthly salaries,” Mahto said, adding, “Deputy chiefs of local levels also perform judicial duties as they chair the judicial committees.”
Advocate Sunil Ranjan Singh said Article 18 of the constitution guaranteed right of equality and there should be no discrimination between federal or provincial representatives and local representatives in matters of pay and perks.
“This verdict shows that Constituent Assembly members, who drafted the constitution, cared about their own well-being but ignored the needs of local office bearers,” Singh said, adding, “Chiefs, deputy chiefs and ward chairs of local levels work full time and hence they must be allowed to draw monthly salaries. How can these local office bearers feed their families if they are not allowed to draw monthly salaries?”
He said the SC’s decision to prohibit local representatives from drawing monthly salaries could lead to malpractice in the local levels. “If local office bearers cannot get monthly pay, they could indulge in corruption,” he warned.
Province 2 Chief Minister M Lalbabu Raut said he respected the SC verdict but providing salaries to local representatives who worked full-time was not wrong. “Local representatives will find other ways to receive allowance every month equal to the salaries they received until yesterday, but giving monthly salaries to them was better because that would stop them from claiming additional allowances,” he added.
Singh also said the SC’s verdict did not take into consideration the provision of 306 (1) (g) of the constitution that defined remuneration as both salary and facilities (perks).
As per this clause, remuneration means and includes salary, allowance, pension and other forms of emoluments and facilities.
“As per this decision it was okay for local office bearers to draw monthly salaries,” he added.
Lokendra Bahadur Oli, who had filed a writ petition challenging the provision related to salaries of local levels had cited Article 227 saying this provision contained only the word ‘facilities’ and not salary unlike the provision of Article 108 which clearly stated that the provisions related to remuneration and facilities of federal representatives, including the prime minister and speaker would be as per federal laws. Six provincial laws contained the word ‘remuneration.’
Province 5 Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel posted on facebook that it would be illogical to deprive local level office bearers of their salaries as the constitution had given executive rights to all three tiers of governments.
Facilities that members of village and municipal assemblies receive every month are less than minimum salaries and hence they cannot be termed salaries. He said there was not much difference between the facilities made available to local office bearers of Province 1 and other provinces. “It cannot be logical to differentiate between lump sum payment and payments under different headings. He stated that denying monthly salary to local office bearers with executive duties was wrong. He said the constitution did not prohibit local office bearers from receiving salaries
A version of this article appears in print on October 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.