Left foot forward

Former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and former minister Prakash Man Singh have moved the Supreme Court against their conviction by the Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) in the Melamchi corruption case. In their appeals, they, in detention, have challenged the commission’s constitutionality and its verdict. They have argued that the commission has no authority to decide a corruption case against anybody because it is not a court of law under the 1990 Constitution and that its very formation under Article 115 (7) during the emergency and its extension afterward under Article 127 are extra-constitutional.

The commission, which has been given a special court’s powers, that of judge, also combines the powers of the constitutionally-mandated Commission for the Inevestigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), those of investigator and prosecutor. Therefore, RCCC is widely thought to be illegal; even international human rights bodies and prominent politicians, including those of America and India, have called for its dissolution, saying that CIAA should handle all corruption cases. The existence of two parallel anti-graft bodies—CIAA and RCCC—and two anti-corruption courts—the Special Court and RCCC—without a delineation of their authority, has created problems for the maintenance of the rule of law. As if this were not enough, RCCC has, in a demonstration of its power over CIAA, summoned former tourism minister Bhim Rawal to testify before it in the aircraft-leasing case, in which he had been cleared by CIAA six years ago. RCCC also fails another key test of a legal court: none of its members has the minimum qualifications for a judge or even a lawyer.

Therefore, its legality or otherwise must be decided very soon. Whatever the apex court’s verdict, it must clarify all confusions. If RCCC is legal, why should the government then continue to spend the taxpayer’s money on keeping CIAA like a white elephant, and by the same token, why the special court, too? RCCC has convicted not only Deuba and Singh, but others too. Therefore, before deciding whether the conviction of the two should be reversed, it is necessary to remove any doubt about RCCC’s legal status.Then other things would naturally follow.