SC stays centre’s decision to bring Province 2 forest under its domain

Kathmandu, December 11

The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court has decided to continue its stay on the federal government’s decision to bring Sagarnath Forestry Development Project under its jurisdiction.

The bench had, on August 30, issued a temporary stay order against the federal government’s decision to bring SFDP under its jurisdiction in response to a writ petition filed by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 2 on August 1. This is the first time a provincial government has gone to court against the federal government over jurisdiction issues.

The five-member constitutional bench comprises Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana, justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Meera Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki and Bishowambhar Prasad Shrestha.

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 under the Forest Corporation, a federal government entity.

Province 2 government argued that as per No 19 of Schedule 6 of the constitution, Province 2 had exclusive power over SFDP as it was a national forest project of the province.

Province 2 lawyers also argued before the court that the federal government could not interfere with its jurisdiction just because it did not enact its own laws to manage provincial forest resources. “The SC’s decision to continue the interim order after days of hearing establishes principle of exclusivity about provincial government’s powers,” Chief Attorney of Province 2 Dipendra Jha said.

Jha, senior advocates Badri Bahadur Karki, Purna Man Shakya and Mahadev Yadav pleaded on behalf of Province 2 government. Jha said the constitution bench’s decision to continue staying the federal government’s decision to bring SFDP under its jurisdiction was a major victory for provinces. Lawyers who defended Province 2 government in the case also argued that if the federal government’s erroneous decision was not stayed, then that could weaken federalism.

Senior Advocates Chandra Kanta Gyawali, Raman Kumar Shrestha and representatives of the Office of the Attorney General pleaded on behalf of the federal government.

The petitioner argued that the federal government’s decision to bring SFDP under its jurisdiction was erroneous as Schedule 6 of the constitution put national forest projects under the provincial government’s jurisdiction.

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

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 for the same purpose. SFDP was established under the Development Committee Act, 1956.