Pathak’s resignation must not make him a free man; he must face charges of corruption and abuse of authority
When President Bidhya Devi Bhandari addressed the 28th year of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on February 11, she had said it was unfortunate to see that some people who were supposed to be controlling corruption were themselves indulging in abusing their authority and power granted by the constitution. Her statement was a tacit reference to none other than CIAA Commissioner Rajnarayan Pathak. Pathak resigned on Friday after a sting audiovisual operation was leaked to the media a few days ago. Following the footage that was made public, Pathak admitted to receiving a bribe of Rs 7.8 million from a group of people associated with Changunarayan-based Nepal Engineering College. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had also addressed the function reiterating his stance on “zero tolerance to corruption”. Pathak put in his papers after the ruling Nepal Communist Party decided to table an impeachment motion in the federal Parliament over his direct involvement in receiving kickbacks to settle a case related to the ownership of the college. Apparently, Pathak resigned from office merely to escape the impeachment.
The audiovisual was shot months ago. The PM himself and other high-profile officials, including those of the CIAA, had seen it about four months ago. But the government and the ruling party remained silent for such a long time, till the scandal was made public through the media. What prevented the PM and the ruling party from taking prompt constitutional action against him, who not only received bribes but also knowingly indulged in abuse of power and authority, is the million dollar question. Why did the main opposition not raise this issue in Parliament when it also knew about Pathak’s involvement in corruption? It has now become evident that a group from the college management wanted to turn this college into private property whereas it was established as a non-profit organisation registered with the Bhaktapur District Administration Office 25 years ago.
The 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index has placed Nepal at 124th position among 180 countries. Corruption is a criminal act which harms the society, political system and even the judiciary. The act of corruption, embezzlement or irregularities cannot be controlled unless the elected bodies, judiciary and constitutional bodies act honestly towards ensuring a just society. Corruption will continue to thrive in society as long as the three organs of the state – executive, legislative and judiciary – promote the culture of impunity, violating the rule of law. The political parties, which form the backbone of democracy and are largely responsible for respecting the rule of law, are themselves promoting corruption. It is the political parties that appoint people with wrong track records on partisan lines in constitutional bodies like the CIAA. We cannot expect a corruption-free society as long as the political parties mend their ways and respect the rule of law that is equally applicable to all. In Pathak’s case, his resignation should not make him a free man. He must face charges of corruption and abuse of authority, and it should be initiated by the CIAA itself. Learning lessons from this case, the government must check the background of a person before appointing him/her to the constitutional bodies.
Night bus service
Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s (KMC) bid to operate night bus service in the Kathmandu Valley is most welcome. For those not in the know, public buses stop plying their routes from 8 in the evening, leaving the passengers to the mercy of the unscrupulous taxi drivers. So the KMC is partnering with Sajha Yatayat to provide transport service from 8 till 11 at night. This is KMC’s third attempt at operating night bus service in the valley. Two previous efforts came to nought, and, hopefully, this time it will be different.
It is indeed weird that the capital city of 3-4 million people should see the roads near empty from so early in the evening. There are tens of thousands of people who work till late in the evening but there is no public transport to reach them home. What is even more bizarre is that the public transport service providers, all private barring Sajha, should be dictating to the authorities till when they ought to be operating. Sajha with a handful of buses cannot serve all the city’s routes. Hence, the KMC must act tough and force the other public transport service providers to also extend their time.
A version of this article appears in print on February 18, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.