Kathmandu, June 28
The Supreme Court today issued show cause notice to the government for allocating fund under Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme for lawmakers elected under first-past-the-post electoral system. This fund is also known as pork barrel fund.
Constitution bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Cholendra Shamsher JB Rana, justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Kedar Prasad Chalise, Meera Khadka and Hari Krishna Karki issued the notice to defendants in response to two writ petitions filed on June 2, by Advocate Paras Mani Bhattarai, a resident of Babarmahal, Kathmandu, and Dinesh Raj Subedi, a social activist from Ramechhap district.
The petitioners have demanded annulment of Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme of the new fiscal budget introduced in the Parliament on May 29.
Advocate Bhattarai told THT that the SC directed defendants to show cause within seven days. “I had sought interim order against the pork barrel fund allocation and court’s order to summon amicus curiae, as this case involves interpretation of the major articles of the constitution. The court, however, did not agree with the argument,” Bhattarai said. He added that he would continue to request the court to summon amicus curiae from Nepal Bar Association, as it was an extremely important case in terms of the interpretation of the constitution.
Under this programme, the government has proposed to increase infrastructure development expenditure amount from Rs 40 million to Rs 60 million from the new fiscal that each lawmaker elected under the first-past-the-post electoral system will be able to spend in his/her electoral districts.
Bhattarai and Subedi argued that the new federal constitution had provisioned for three types of government – federal, provincial and local – that were autonomous and independent. They added that the budgetary proposal to allow FPTP lawmakers to spend Rs 60 million in their electoral districts violated constitutional provisions, as lawmakers would be interfering in the work of local levels, which had absolute authority to carry out infrastructure development projects within their jurisdiction.
Bhattarai argued in his petitions that allocation of pork barrel fund was not only illegal, but also against the principle of federalism.
“The government should not allow lawmakers to spend money in their constituencies. Lawmakers only have powers to enact laws, formulate policies, conduct parliamentary hearings and impeach erring public officials,” Bhattarai said in his writ petition.
His petition adds that allowing lawmakers to spend government money in their constituencies will let them interfere with the local government’s work, besides bleeding government coffers.
Petitioners have named the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Finance, House of Representatives, National Assembly, Parliament Secretariat, speaker and chairman of the National Assembly as defendants.
A version of this article appears in print on June 29, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.