Court clears way for Bhatta to take charge as board chiefThe decision allows Bhatta to resume work, but a final verdict will decide whether he’s fit for the job or not.
The Patan High Court on Sunday cleared the way for Sushil Bhatta to perform his duties as chief executive officer of the Investment Board Nepal.
A joint bench of judges Ishwor Raj Acharya and Thakur Prasad Sharma Poudel discontinued an interim stay issued by the court on August 11 barring him from performing his duty as chief executive of the board.
A Cabinet meeting on August 3 decided to appoint Bhatta to the post. But, on August 10, advocate Jaya Bahadur Bhujel filed a writ petition challenging Bhatta’s appointment, saying that he was not fit for the job and that his appointment was in violation of the law.
The court order on Sunday said that it was not required to continue the interim order as the defendants produced a copy of the letter of appointment and the attendance registry to prove that Bhatta had already assumed his office on August 5.
The court, however, said that the claim of the petitioner that Bhatta lacked managerial experience required for the job would be addressed during the final court verdict on the appointment.
Earlier, the court had issued an interim order barring Bhatta from assuming his office as lawyers representing the petitioner argued he had not yet assumed his office at the board.
Even though Bhatta can now perform his duty as CEO of the board, the legality of his appointment will continue to face questions until the court passes its final verdict. The court said that it shall prioritise the case in its causelist.
In his writ petition, Bhujel argued that Bhatta does not have the managerial experience as required by the Public Private Partnership Act 2020 and Investment Board Act 2010 to lead the board.
The petitioner has also questioned Bhatta’s reputation as an agent for various building and contracting firms, whose contracts had been terminated by the government for failing to deliver outcomes on time.
The government had to terminate contracts with 13 companies handled by Bhatta following poor performance, Bhujel has stated in the petition.
While issuing the interim order on August 10, the court had already ordered the defendants to come up with evidence as to why the order should not be issued as demanded by the writ petitioner within 15 days, excluding the days required for delivery of evidence.
“These details were sought to decide whether to annul the appointment or not,” Shambhu Prasad Regmi, spokesperson at the court, told the Post.
The government’s decision to appoint Bhatta had invited widespread criticism from different quarters. Many have argued that Bhatta’s appointment was influenced by his brother, Deepak Bhatta, who is an agent for many foreign companies, including the Chinese Gezhouba Group awarded the contract to develop the 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydroelectric Project.
In his petition, Bhujel said that Bhatta’s appointment to the position could lead to a conflict of interest as his brother works for a major project and he himself has worked as an agent for many building and contracting companies in the past.
Bhujel warned that Bhatta’s appointment could discourage domestic and foreign investment.