Nepal | April 07, 2020

SC jolt for govt on Sagarnath Forest

Stays decision to bring it under the federal government’s jurisdiction

Ram Kumar Kamat

Kathmandu, August 30

Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay order against the federal government’s decision to bring Sagarnath Forestry Development Project under its  jurisdiction.

The apex court ordered the government to not act on its decision to bring SFDP under its jurisdiction till September 11 when the court, after hearing arguments from both the sides,  will decide whether or not to continue the stay. The SC also issued a show cause notice to the government.

The five-member bench comprising Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana, justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Kedar Prasad Chalise, Meera Khadka and Hari Krishna Karki issued the temporary stay order against the government in response to a writ petition filed by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 2 on August 1.

The petition was filed against the federal government for transferring Sagarnath Forestry Development Project to the Forest Corporation.

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.

Appearing before the bench today on behalf of Province 2 government, Senior Advocate Surendra Kumar Mahto argued that as per No 19 of Schedule 6 of the constitution, Province 2 had exclusive power over SFDP as it was national forest project.

If a forest is brought under corporation law, then profit and losses are taken into account, but national forests cannot be issues of profit and loss, he argued.

Mahto said the federal government could not claim its jurisdiction on issues covered by Schedule 6 even if it amended the constitution by two-thirds majority of the Parliament. “Amendment to the constitution on issues of exclusive powers of provinces entails consent of provinces as well,” he added.

Other senior advocates Badri Bahadur Karki and Mahadev Yadav also pleaded on behalf of Province 2 government.

The petitioner argued that forest resources fell 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.

It stated 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 that to the federal government’s Ministry of Forest and Environment.

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 Development Committee Act, 1956.

A version of this article appears in print on August 31, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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