KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal has told the Director General at the Department of Tourism to revoke the Everest summit certificates that the Department issued to an Indian couple who presented the morphed photographs showing themselves on the top of the world’s highest peak.
In response to a letter sent by the DoT on Monday asking the Ministry to cancel summit certificates of Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod and his wife Tarkeshwari Chandrakant Bhelerao, both police constables from Maharashtra, the Ministry on Wednesday decided to authorise the DoT DG Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal to cancel their certificates as per the existing Tourism Act and the Mountaineering Regulation.
Joint secretary Ghanashyam Updhyay, who heads the Human Resource Management and Tourism Promotion Division in the Ministry, told THT Online that the DG could now nullify the couple’s certificates as they obtained the papers by submitting altered photos to the DoT.
As the DoT has already concluded that the couple cheated the Department by submitting their morphed photos to obtain the Everest summit certificates on June 10, the Director General, who is now in India to attend a tourism event, would cancel both certificates once he returns to Kathmandu in a day or two, Upadhyay added.
As per the Act, the couple may be banned from entering into Nepal for a period up to five years or for mountaineering in Nepal for a period up to 10 years.
According to him, the Ministry also set up a three-member committee under the leadership of Under-Secretary Tika Ram Pandey* to investigate into the Rathods’ case in details and give a comprehensive report within 15 days.
“The Ministry has also named Director of Mountaineering Section Laxman Sharma and official photographer Ram Krishna Maharjan as members of the probe panel,” he said.
According to him, the panel will interview climbing Sherpas, expedition organising company, concerned Liaison Officer and others. “The committee will also check the veracity of Rathods’ claims by examining the photographs the couple submitted to the DoT,” he added.
After cancelling the certificates, the panel will also examine the roles of climbing Sherpas, trekking agency and Liaison Officer to inspire the Rathods to play foul and recommend necessary action against them if found guilty.
“The panel shall also make necessary recommendations to the Ministry for averting such incidents in future,” he informed.
The Rathods had obtained certificates from the DoT allegedly by submitting morphed pictures that showed themselves to the top of the summit on May 23 while Liaison Officer Ganesh Prasad Timsina, climbing Sherpas – Furba and Fursemba – and Makalu Adventure Treks approved the couple’s claims.
The expedition organising company had also admitted in its clarification that the photos were morphed, but it blamed the climbing Sherpas for the goof. The photos submitted by Rathod couple to the DoT as proofs were found faked after Satyarup Siddhantha, a climber from Bangalore, accused the police couple of plagiarising his summit photos taken while the Bengaluru climber had scaled the mountain on May 21.
The panel is also open to examine all documents related to the mountaineering expeditions including the summit certificates issued to climbers in the last spring season, according to Upadhyay.
The Ministry’s move also coincides with the revelation of a sheer negligence on part of the Liaison Officers as a half of LOs – 15 of the 32 designated by the government – have been found to have breached the Regulation while recommending Everest summit certificates to climbers this season.
Without even making it to the Everest base camp, the 15 LOs ranging from non-gazetted first class to undersecretary positions, are found to have attested 225 climbers – 103 foreigners and their 122 climbing Sherpas – as eligible for the summit certificates.
- The Ministry may cancel travel order and may cause to return the facilities received as per the Regulation by the Liaison Officer, if he/she does not accompany with the mountaineering expedition team.
- The Government of Nepal may ban a mountaineering expedition team or its any member from entering into Nepal for a period up to five years or ban for mountaineering in Nepal for a period up to 10 years for violating the provisions of the Act or Rules framed thereunder or conditions specified in the permit and committing any immoral conduct or behaviour whilst on mountaineering period.
- In case, a leader or any member of a mountaineering expedition team violates this Act, Rules framed hereunder or any matter prescribed in conditions of the permit for mountaineering, the Government of Nepal may revoke permit issued under this Act at any time.
- If any special situation arises in order to revoke the permission for mountaineering issued under this Act, the Government of Nepal may revoke such permission with or without showing reasons thereof at any time.
Agency/ Climbing Sherpas
- In case, any agency making arrangements for mountaineering violates any provisions regarding mountaineering of this Act or Rules made thereunder or instigates others to violate the same, the Government of Nepal may punish either banning such agency from making any types of arrangement for mountaineering for a period from one year up to five years or imposing a fine from Rs 5,000 up to Rs 25,000 or with both.
- In case, someone instigates any mountaineering expedition team or any of its member to violate this Act or Rules framed thereunder or order or directives of the Government of Nepal, the prescribed authority may punish such person with a fine from one thousand rupees up to Rs 10,000.
*Corrected on July 8, 2016.