Attorney general says CIAA can probe Pathak corruption caseThe Office of the Attorney General on Monday swiftly responded to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, advising the watchdog that it can investigate Raj Narayan Pathak, the CIAA commissioner who resigned on Friday after he got embroiled in a corruption scandal.
The Office of the Attorney General on Monday swiftly responded to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, advising the watchdog that it can investigate Raj Narayan Pathak, the CIAA commissioner who resigned on Friday after he got embroiled in a corruption scandal.
The commission sought the attorney general’s opinion on Monday morning amid confusion over the constitutional provision if it authorised the CIAA to probe and prosecute a constitutional body office bearer.
A source at the Attorney General’s Office said their opinion was that the constitution, the CIAA Act and the Corruption Prevention Act do not bar the anti graft-body from initiating a probe in the incident involving Pathak.
Attorney General Agni Kharel told the Post that his office has sent its opinion to the anti-graft body.
The commission had found the related constitutional provisions unclear.
A meeting of CIAA commissioners and senior officials on Sunday had decided to seek the opinion of the Attorney General’s Office.
Article 239 (3) of the constitution might be interpreted that the commission can initiate action against an office bearer of a constitutional body only when he or she is removed through impeachment, according to CIAA officials.
Despite video evidence of Pathak admitting to have received Rs7.8 million in bribe, there is concern whether he would also walk away without prosecution for corruption like other people who committed excesses as constitutional office holders in the past.
“There is strong pressure on us to initiate investigation on Pathak. Therefore, we wanted to be clear on our jurisdiction from the Office of Attorney General,” a source told the Post on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The Attorney General’s Office is the legal advisor to government entities and takes decision on whether to prosecute anybody in a case where the government is a party.
The constitution is silent on whether the anti-corruption agency is authorised to look into the case where the office bearer of a constitutional body embroiled in corruption resigns before Parliament impeaches him or her.
Some experts said that the CIAA can prosecute such persons as any other public official.
If Pathak is prosecuted and convicted, he is subject to a jail term of at least 11 years, besides confiscation of the amount misappropriated and to pay fine equivalent to the money as per the Corruption Prevention Act.
In the past, Lokman Singh Karki, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court questioning his moral integrity, didn’t face any investigation although questions were raised about the constitutionality and legality of his actions as the CIAA chief.
Former chief justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli was embroiled in a controversy over trying to lengthen his tenure by producing different dates of birth in his citizenship and educational certificates. Senior Supreme Court Justice Deepak Raj Joshi was disqualified by the Parliamentary Hearing Committee to head the judiciary citing his controversial verdicts in the past.
None of them faced any action, raising questions whether holding a constitutional body post gives one impunity against their corrupt deeds.