Govt not to return cash seized 19 yrs ago

Ananta Raj Luitel

Kathmandu, January 30:

The Ministry of Defence has informed the Supreme Court that the government cannot release the money confiscated from the house of then Royal Nepalese Army colonel Bharat Gurung even though the King in 1996 pardoned him from jail-sentences imposed by a military court 19 years ago. “The Defence Ministry recently told us that it cannot release the amount being claimed by Gurung’s wife Mana Kumari from the government,” a Supreme Court source told this daily. The source added that the issue is sub judice since Mana Kumari moved the apex court last year. The ministry is confused whether or not to release the amount though the apex court had directed the government to return all of Gurung’s property in 1996.

“A division bench of chief justice Surendra Prasad Singh and justice Narendra Bahadur Neupane had ordered the government to return Gurung’s immovable assets, like his house and land but we cannot return seized cash,” the Ministry told the apex court. Military court officials had seized Rs 2.5 million in cash from Gurung’s house and confiscated all his property, including house and land.

Recently, the Defence Ministry sought advice from the Finance Ministry on the issue and the Finance Ministry advised against returning the confiscated money.

“There is no need to return the amount, once it has been deposited in the state treasury,” the Defence Ministry told the apex court, citing the advice of the Finance Ministry.

Immediately after the royal pardon in 1996 under Article 122 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court had directed the then Sher Bahadur Deuba government to return Gurung’s property. The government returned his house and land but not the seized cash.

In 1986, a military court had sentenced Gurung to about ten years in jail for allegedly being involved in drug smuggling, attempt to murder, gold and arms smuggling and corruption.

“There is no clarity in current legal provisions and the verdict passed by the apex court was also silent on returning the seized cash,” government-joint attorney Prem Raj Karki said. “The apex court is the final authority to decide the issue.”