The District Government Attorney’s Office (DGAO), Kathmandu, has filed a case against 290 people including four former ministers in connection with the Baluwatar land grab scam.
According to Government Attorney Mahesh Prasad Khatri, the case was registered at the Kathmandu District Court on Sunday.
The DGAO has charged the 290 defendants with forging government documents to transfer 143 ropanis of government land at Baluwatar to the names of individuals.
Khatri said that the DGAO decided to prosecute the accused for only forgery in connection with the scam.
The DGAO has sought a jail term of three years for former ministers, secretaries and other government employees for forgery, and one year for the others.
It has also sought recovery of over Rs 18 billion in claims from the defendants.
The defendants include former deputy prime minister and minister for physical planning Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, former minister for land reforms Chandra Deo Joshi, former minister for land reforms Dambar Shrestha and former minister of state Sanjay Kumar Shah.
The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police had made former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai witnesses in its investigation report on the scam.
The CIB recorded the statements of the two former PMs and included their statements in the investigation report after the Supreme Court (SC) ordered investigation on those who took Cabinet decisions in the Baluwatar land grab scam.
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had decided to not lodge corruption case against the then PMs Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai who had taken such decisions to facilitate the scam 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 had not lodged corruption case against former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai, and CPN General Secretary Bishnu Paudel in the Baluwatar land grab scam.
The constitutional anti-graft body had said it did 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 General Secretary 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 CPN 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.