NOC chief reinstatedIn a major turn of events, the Supreme Court on Sunday reinstated Gopal Bahadur Khadka, who has been charged of embezzling over Rs800 million in land purchase deals, to the post of managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC).
In a major turn of events, the Supreme Court on Sunday reinstated Gopal Bahadur Khadka, who has been charged of embezzling over Rs800 million in land purchase deals, to the post of managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC).
A single bench of Justice Purushottam Bhandari issued a show cause against the government’s decision to remove Khadka from his position. The apex judicial organ has also issued an interim order to reinstate him to the post.
The apex court came up with the verdict after Khadka moved the court demanding his reinstatement.
Supreme Court Spokesperson Narayan Prasad Panthi said the apex body had issued the order to reinstate Khadka, as the government had failed to follow due procedures while sacking him. “He wasn’t given an opportunity to submit his clarification,” Panthi said.
A Supplies Ministry official, however, said: “Had Khadka been given such an opportunity, he would have used the time to influence the concerned high authority to come up with a decision in his favour.”
One of the NOC board members, on the other hand, criticised the ministry for making a frantic move to oust Khadka.
“The Supplies Secretary, who is head of the NOC board, did not even call a formal meeting before making such a major decision,” the board member said on condition of anonymity.
“But since the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is conducting an investigation into the matter, he won’t be able to escape if found guilty.”
But others say Khadka might use the time in office to hide or tamper evidences, making the investigation complicated.
A Cabinet meeting held on September 18 had sacked Khadka from his position based on a proposal tabled by Supplies Minister Shiva Prasad Mandal.
Mandal had proposed that Khadka be removed “for not cooperating and for forming special interest groups besides being involved in embezzlement”.
Separate probes conducted by five parliamentary committees and the Ministry of Supplies had revealed Khadka’s involvement in irregularities while buying land in four districts to build oil storage facilities.
Khadka is accused of misappropriating around Rs800 million while buying land plots worth Rs1.61 billion in four places: Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa.
Subsequently, the Cabinet decided to sack him as proposed by Supplies Minister Mandal. The Ministry of Supplies had also submitted a report of its investigation into NOC’s land deals to the Prime Minister’s Office recommending action against Khadka.
Two days after the Cabinet’s decision, Khadka had filed a writ against the government decision saying the Cabinet’s decision to dismiss him was illegal and should be annulled. In the writ, Khadka had identified five government bodies, including Prime Minister’s Office and Supplies Ministry, as opponents.
Minister Mandal had upped the ante against Khadka based on evidences of his involvement in inflating the price of land plots while purchasing them.
The state oil monopoly has been charged with misappropriation of funds totalling Rs568 million on purchase of land in Chitwan and Jhapa districts alone. It has also been charged of misappropriating Rs150 million and Rs80 million, respectively, on purchase of land in Bhairahawa and Sarlahi districts.
A field study report of the parliamentary sub-committee under the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee concluded that NOC paid three to four times more than what the brokers had paid to the owners of the land.
The panel’s report also showed that the NOC top brass, middlemen and local administrative chiefs had colluded to show that prices paid were reasonable.
Apart from the land purchase deal, Khadka, since his appointment as NOC’s chief, is being seen as one of the controversial figures, because of involvement in multiple scams.
He is also blamed for taking bribe of up to Rs70,000 per gas truck while issuing gas bullet operation permits.
He is also accused of embezzling money while extending licenses to 17 gas bottlers. Khadka has also been charged of issuing licences to 334 new gasoline refilling centres in an arbitrary manner.
CIAA has been conducting investigation into the irregularities in NOC’s land purchase deals. Preliminary investigation by the anti-corruption body has also found NOC officials’ involvement in irregularities.