Province 2 sues federal government

Kathmandu, August 1

The Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 2 has sued the federal government for transferring Sagarnath Forestry Development Project to the Forest Corporation. It is the first time that a provincial government has sued the federal government ‘for usurping the provincial government’s power.’

Province 2 government challenged the federal government’s June 6 decision that authorised the merger of SFDP with Timber Corporation of Nepal, which was later put in the Forest Corporation, a federal government entity.

The petitioner has argued that forest resources fall under the provincial government’s jurisdiction as per Schedule 6 of the constitution and hence the June 6 decision of the federal government was unconstitutional.

The Cabinet of Province 2 had decided on July 14 to challenge the federal government’s decision in the court.  The petitioner filed the case in the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.

The petitioner said that as per a decision of the Province 2 Cabinet taken on March 8, SFDP had already been transferred to the provincial government’s jurisdiction and the provincial government had informed the same to the federal government’s Ministry of Forest and Environment.

Province 2 government allocated Rs 10 million in fiscal 2017-18 to support SFDP for planting trees and an equal amount has been allocated in the current fiscal year for the same purpose.

SFDP was established under Development Committee Act, 1956.

The petitioner also argued that the Forest Act also did not allow transfer of  SFDP to the Forest Corporation.

The petitioner said that as per the constitution and laws, SFDP, which is a national forest, could not be merged with a company.

The provincial government also sought an interim order in the case.

It has named the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Forest and Environment, the Timber Corporation of Nepal and Company Registrar Office as defendants.  Minister of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 1  Jagadish Prasad Kushiyat said as per the constitutional provision forests should exclusively fall under the provincial government’s jurisdiction.

Minister of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 5 Lila Giri told THT that the federal government should not usurp provincial government’s powers. “The constitution clearly states the powers of all governments and all tiers of government should confine their activities within their brief,” he added.

Giri said the federal government had not enacted new forest laws as per the spirit of federalism.

Constitutional expert Chandra Kanta Gyawali said the issue raised by Province 2 was for the court to interpret, as it was not clear which tier of government had how much power with regard to forest related issues. “On the one hand, national forests are under provincial government’s jurisdiction, but laws and national policies, including on parks and reserves, fall under the federal government. Forests are also on concurrent lists. Therefore, policies should be formulated to clearly define jurisdiction of governments,” he said.