The Supreme Court (SC) has started hearing the petition demanding trial of the then prime ministers (PM) Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai in the Baluwatar land grab on Monday.
A joint bench of Justices Anil Kumar Sinha and Hari Prasad Phuyal have started hearing of the petition filed by senior advocate Bal Krishna Neupane demanding an order to try the ex-PMs for facilitating the land grab through Cabinet decisions.
A joint bench of Justices Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Hari Prasad Phuyal on February 14 had decided to look at the evidence and sought the files and documents related to the land grab to decide whether to try the former PMs.
The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had decided to not lodge corruption case against them citing they had only taken policy decisions.
The CIAA lodged corruption case against the then physical infrastructure and planning minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar for taking the proposal for expansion of the PM's residence in Baluwatar that facilitated the land grab but exempted the then PM Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Similarly, the then land reforms minister Chandra Dev Joshi was also charged in the case while Bhattarai who chaired the Cabinet when Joshi was minister was spared.
The CIAA did not lodge corruption case against former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai, and CPN-UML leader Bishnu Paudel in the Baluwatar land grab scam.
The constitutional anti-graft body said it does not have powers to prosecute former government heads for policy decisions while Paudel was spared as the land belonging to his son was returned.
"The Cabinet decisions made on proposal of the ministries concerned on April 11, 2010, May 14, 2010, August 13, 2010, and October 4, 2012 to give legality to illegal activities carried out by different ministries and offices about the government land inside Lalita Niwas camp and to illegally establish ownership and rights of individuals on the government land are not in the jurisdiction of the CIAA being policy decisions taken collectively by the council of ministers," the CIAA stated in its charge sheet. "We, therefore, do not need to do anything about prime minister duo Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai."
Nepal was prime minister in 2010 and Bhattarai in 2012.
The probe committee formed by the government under former secretary Sharada Prasad Trital had submitted the report to the government in December 2018 concluding that the land transferred to individuals in Baluwatar belonged to the government.
The committee's report stated that the government land inside Lalita Residence reached to different individuals due to Cabinet decisions under many prime ministers. It had recommended that the land should be taken back by revoking a few of those Cabinet decisions.
CPN-UML leader Bishnu Paudel was also dragged in the scam as eight annas of grabbed land (plot number 309 and 3015) had been transferred to his son from Uma Dhakal and Madhavi Subedi, wives of Shobha Kanta Dhakal and Ram Prasad Subedi identified as land mafia by the Trital committee.
Some UML leaders citing the then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal have told Setopati that Paudel facilitated Cabinet decisions to provide grounds for the land grab and had even arranged donation of Rs 40 million to the party in return for the decisions.
But Paudel was not charged in the case after his son agreed to return the government land once the scam came to the fore.
The committee stated that the then king Mahendra after the coup in 1961 had confiscated 14 ropanis land of Nepali Congress leader Suvarna Shumsher Rana and his father Kanchan Shumsher in Baluwatar. The government four years later acquired 285 ropanis of Rana's land in Baluwatar by paying compensation.
The PM's residence, chief justice's residence, speaker's residence and the central office of Nepal Rastra Bank are currently situated in 172 ropanis out of that 285 ropanis. Land mafia in connivance with staffers at the Land Revenue Office has transferred ownership of the remaining 113 ropanis of land to different individuals, the committee has concluded.
The land owned by Paudel was out of that 113 ropanis.