‘Probe panel undermining parliamentary supremacy’

Kathmandu, January 5

Experts on the constitution and administration have said the government decision to form a high-level probe committee under former chief judge Govinda Parajuli to investigate alleged irregularities in the purchase of wide-body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation undermines parliamentary supremacy.

“The government has undermined parliamentary supremacy,” former chief secretary Bhoj Raj Pokharel told THT. He said the government’s action would appear appropriate if it had formed the investigation panel before Parliament initiated its probe on the issue. However, in this case, the government formed the panel after Parliament acted on the issue” said Pokharel.

According to him, it is clearly mentioned in the law that the Parliament should not debate an issue that is sub-judice in the court, but it is not clearly mentioned in the law whether the government should refrain from doing something about an issue that has been taken up by the Parliament. Yet the practice is that the government should not undermine Parliament’s supremacy.

“The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse Authority is the constitutional body to look into corruption cases,” Pokharel said.

He also said had the opposition party been strong in the Parliament, this issue would have been raised strongly in the House meeting, but that was not the case even though Nepali Congress lawmaker Minendra Rijal had raised the issue opposing the government’s decision to form the panel.

“The Parliament has been looking into the allegation of corruption in the purchase of wide-body aircraft and the Parliament can refer the issue to the CIAA. That should be the preferred action,” Pokharel argued.

Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya told The Himalayan Times, “It was against the separation of powers and it was also wrong theoretically and constitutionally.” According to him, the Parliament is a sovereign body and the executive cannot interfere in the Parliament’s action.

“The government should have allowed the Parliament to continue to work on the issue, if the sub-committee report is wrong, the Parliament should say so. The government has superseded the Parliament and violated parliamentary norms,” Acharya said.

A separate body under Bhakta Bahadur Koirala was formed in 2005 by former king Gyanendra Shah undermining the CIAA, but that body was later scrapped by the Supreme Court.

The government’s decision to form the probe committee  came a day after a sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee formed to investigate possible financial irregularities in the aircraft purchase deal came up with a report concluding that there had been corruption amounting to more than Rs 4.34 billion in the procurement process and recommended legal action against Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari and his predecessors Jitendra Narayan Dev and Jeevan Bahadur Shahi, among other high-ranking officials.

The government had formed a three member high-level probe committee under former chief justice Govinda Parajuli to investigate alleged irregularities in the wide-body aircraft purchase deal of Nepal Airlines Corporation on January 3.

Former deputy attorney general Narendra Prasad Pathak and chartered accountant Madan Sharma are members of the committee.

The committee has been told to submit its report within 45 days.