Supreme Court issues show cause for exonerating Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai on Lalita Niwas land scamSingle bench of Chief Justice Rana demanded an explanation from the anti-graft commission within 15 days.
The Supreme Court has demanded a written answer from the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority explaining the reason why a case wasn’t filed against former prime minister duo Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai on the Lalita Niwas land scam.
The single bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana has demanded the explanation from the constitutional anti-graft agency within 15 days. Senior Advocate Bal Krishna Neupane moved the apex court on Wednesday demanding both Nepal and Bhattarai be booked in the scam together with other officials and former ministers. Neupane claimed that the commission’s decision to exempt two former prime ministers and Nabin Poudel, son of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader Bishnu Poudel, and Supreme Court justice Kumar Regmi from corruption charges was not justifiable. He had argued that the commission has introduced a new principle where a person who returns the property related to a crime can be spared criminal prosecution.
The court, however, hasn’t spoken about Poudel and Regmi. “As the case needs to finalised early, it will get priority,” reads the ruling by Rana.
Neupane had moved the court amid widespread criticism over the commission’s decision to implicate some and spare others. The commission had claimed that Nepal and Bhattarai were exonerated on the grounds that the decisions taken by their Cabinets were “policy decisions”. The anti-corruption watchdog has argued that it does not have the jurisdiction to look into the Cabinet’s “policy decisions”.
Neupane also has challenged the argument of the anti-graft body to call every Cabinet decision as a policy decision. He says the case could be lodged based on a 1996 verdict of the apex court. The verdict, issued by then chief justice Surendra Prasad Singh and justices Keshav Prasad Upadhyaya, Laxman Prasad Aryal, Kedar Nath Upadhyay and Udayaraj Upadhyaya, said that only decisions taken by the Cabinet to fulfil promises made in the election manifesto constitute ‘policy decisions’.
The commission on Wednesday indicted 175 individuals over the Lalita Niwas land grab which included three former ministers including Nepali Congress leader Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. While the ministers have been charged with corruption, Nepal and Bhattarai, who led the government then have been spared.The investigation found that both Poudel and Regmi had bought the land but they didn’t face any charges because they agreed to return the property. They have already returned the land to the government. Legal experts say the decision to exempt individuals on such grounds could encourage others also to commit to returning the pieces of land so as to get cleared by the court.