It seems that the attorney's office is under pressure from the powers that be which do not want the case to move forward

The Kathmandu District Attorney's Office (KDAO) on Monday returned the investigation file submitted to it by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police on the infamous Lalita Niwas land grab scam, stating that the investigation carried out by the CIB was 'incomplete'. The KDAO asked the CIB to complete the investigation as per the law that existed when the land grab scandal took place. The CIB had launched its investigation in accordance with the Criminal Code which came into force in 2017. As per the statutory limitation, the CIB had to submit its investigation file to the District Attorney's Office, which decides whether or not the case holds legal standing to lodge a case of corruption or forgery of government documents in the court of law. A corruption or forgery case should be filed at the court within three years from the start of its investigation, which was submitted to the office five days before the statutory limitation, which expired on Tuesday. Legal experts believe that the file was returned to the investigating agency to sabotage the case and to make it easy for the defendants. The CIB has accused more than 300 people, including former bureaucrats-turned-ministers, employees of the then Dilli Bazaar-based Land Revenue Office and land mafias, all of whom played their role in transferring 143 ropanis of land belonging to Lalita Niwas, where the PM's residence and Nepal Rastra Bank's Central Office are located.

It may be recalled that the Panchayat-era government had acquired a total of 299 ropanis of land belonging to Nepali Congress leader Subarna Shumsher Rana in 2021 B.S. by giving him and his family members due compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act- 2018 B.S. An investigation carried out by the Sarada Prasad Trital-led commission, formed by the KP Oli-led government three years ago, had found that only 14 ropanis of land had been seized by the then government, which was later returned to the rightful owners by the then KP Bhattarai-led cabinet in 1990. However, the land mafias, corrupt bureaucrats and subsequent governments led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai decided to return 143 ropanis of land to the accused, who had forged government documents with the help of high-ranking government officials and politicians.

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has also filed a forgery and corruption case against 175 individuals, including the politicians, at the Special Court, on charges of transferring the government land in individuals' names.

More than 50 CIB officials had spent three years investigating the case, thoroughly analysing the evidences dating back to 91 years. However, the District Attorney's Office refused to accept the report, saying it was incomplete. The District Attorney's Office, which is also part of the investigation, should have told the CIB officials where the lapses had occurred during the investigation well before the CIB submitted its file to it. It seems that the attorney's office is under pressure from the powers that be, politicians and former bureaucrats who do not want the case to move forward. With this, the future of the Lalita Niwas land grab case is uncertain. Almost all the defendants will go scot-free because of the KDAO.

Mini hydel projects

Experts at a discussion session, organised by Nepal Energy Foundation the other day, stressed on promoting micro/mini and small hydel projects to mitigate climate change impact. Indeed, Nepal is blessed with not only big rivers capable of generating thousands of megawatts of power but also small rivers and rivulets that can meet the energy needs of the local population. Big power plants require not only heavy capital investment but also high technical expertise, which must be imported. Small power plants on the other hand require little capital with much of the equipment being produced in the country itself.

They can also be dispersed throughout the country, improving the access of poor communities to energy.

Many remote areas would still be without electricity were it not for the micro and mini hydel plants.

With global warming and climate change becoming the issue of this century, it is only right that we cut down on burning fossil fuels to produce power. The clean energy generated by micro and small power plants is Nepal's contribution, whatever little, to reducing climate change impact. As suggested by the experts, let's have institutional infrastructure in place for their sustainable operation.

A version of this article appears in the print on January 12, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.