The Supreme Court (SC) has aked the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) why it did not lodge corruption case against former prime minister duo Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai in the the Baluwatar land grab scam.
A single bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumher Rana hearing the writ petition filed by senior advocate Balkrishna Neupane demanding former prime minister duo Nepal and Bhattarai be tried for corruption has asked the contitutional anti-graft body to furnish a written response within 15 days.
"What happened on this? Why should the order demanded by the writ petitioner not be issued?" the SC has asked on Friday. "Issue notice/deadline to the CIAA to submit written reponse through the Office of the Attorney General within 15 days of receiving this order excluding the time for deivery if there are any legal grounds or reasons to not issue the order."
The CIAA lodged corruption cases against three former ministers on February 5 for facilitating the land grab by taking proposals to the Cabinet for decision. But it spared Nepal and Bhattarai who headed the Cabinet at the time and took those decisions stating it cannot look into policy decisions by the Cabinet.
Senior advocate Balkrishna Neupane on Wednesday moved the Apex Court demanding order to initiate corruption case against the former PM duo exempted by the CIAA. "The CIAA has exempted them citing policy decision. But they were not policy decisions but decisions taken against the law. I, therefore, filed a writ petition demanding order to initiate case against everyone in those two council of ministers involved in taking decision to transfer land of Lalita Niwas to individuals. It was registered on the third day of submission today," Neupane had told Setopati.
The petition was filed when questions are being asked about why three ministers and three secretaries who took the proposals to facilitate the land grab have been charged of corruption but the two former PMs who took those decisions spared.
The CIAA has 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 has exempted the then PM Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Similarly, former minister Chandra Dev Joshi has also been charged while the then PM Baburam Bhattarai has been spared.
The constitutional anti-graft body has said it does not have powers to prosecute former government heads for policy decisions.
"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 charge sheet states. "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 CIAA has decided to advise the Cabinet to take initiative to make legal arrangements allowing it to investigate if there is corruption in policy decision of the Cabinet. It has further advised the Cabinet to review, analyze and evaluate or do whatever is necessary on the issue of government land of Lalita Niwas.
Questions have also been asked about why corruption case has not been filed against CPN leader Paudel.
Land Revenue Office records show that Paudel's son Navin purchased eight annas of land from Uma Kumari Dhakal and Madhavi Subedi, spouses of Shobha Kanta Dhakal and Ram Kumar Subedi identified as the land mafia by the Sharada Prasad Trital committee.
Dhakal and Subedi seem to have purchased the land from tenants. Many argue that Navin cannot be held legally guilty as he did not directly purchase the land and bought it after sale at different levels.
Bishnu Paudel also cannot be deemed guilty as he does not own the land or was involved in the government decision making process. The CIAA, however, could have made his son Navin a defendant. It could have made Navin defendant only for return of the land.
But Navin during his statement to the CIAA agreed to return the land. The CIAA says it, therefore, did not lodge case against Paudel.
Supreme Court (SC) Justice Kumar Regmi has also not been charged as he also similarly purchased the land after sale at different levels.
The CIAA has used the clause about witness while giving amnesty to Paudel and Regmi.
Clause 55 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2002 states that such witnesses who assist in investigation can be fully or partially let off. It is yet not clear how Navin and Regmi helped the CIAA in investigation but the CIAA has decided to consider them witness as they have agreed to return the land.
The constitutional anti-graft body last Wednesday lodged corruption case against 175 individuals including Nepali Congress (NC) Vice-president and former deputy prime minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, two other former ministers and its former chief Deep Basnet in Baluwatar land grab.
The government had formed a probe committee under former secretary Sharada Prasad Trital following complaints that government land at Baluwatar has been transferred to some individuals. The committee had submitted the report to the government in December 2018 concluding that the land transferred to individuals belonged to the government.
The committee stated that the then king Mahendra after the coup in 1951 had confiscated 14 ropanis land of Nepali Congress leader Suvarna Shumsher Rana and his son 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.
CPN General Secretary and former finance minister Bishnu Paudel was dragged into the controversy as eight annas out of the 113 ropanis has been transferred in the name of his son Navin.