Supreme Court says government decision to probe Governor Adhikari was arbitraryMaha Prasad Adhikari, who returned to office on April 20, will continue in the job until a final verdict.
The Supreme Court on Friday continued an interim order against the suspension of Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari. With the decision, Adhikari can continue his job until the final judgment.
A division bench of justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Tanka Bahadur Moktan decided to continue the interlocutory order issued by Justice Hari Phuyal on April 19 that had paved the way for Adhikari to resume office, days after his suspension by the government.
A Cabinet meeting on April 7 had formed a probe panel charging him with leaking sensitive information of the government and not performing his responsibilities effectively, leading to his automatic suspension.
Adhikari resumed his office on April 20 following the interlocutory order by Phuyal’s bench.
The division bench has questioned the formation of the probe committee saying it was constituted without sufficient evidence. The court termed the decision to form the committee biased, claiming that there was no situation to constitute such a panel against the governor.
“The decision to form the probe committee was arbitrary because there is no concrete allegation against the petitioner (Adhikari) for his suspension,” reads the order. “He wasn’t given an opportunity for clarification.”
The court has said the decision to form the investigation panel that led to Adhikari’s suspension came at a time when the country is heading towards an economic crisis. “The Nepal Rastra Bank, Finance Ministry and the government have their own constitutional and legal responsibilities to work collaboratively to strengthen the country’s economy, which is heading towards crisis,” the order further says.
The decision to form the committee largely stemmed from Finance Minister Janardan Sharma’s dissatisfaction against Governor Adhikari over a number of issues including the latter’s refusal to release Rs 400 million belonging to Prithvi Bahadur Shah whose source is under investigation. At the request of the Financial Information Unit of the Nepal Rastra Bank, the Department of Money Laundering Investigation is probing the money brought by Shah from the United States.
The decision that led to Adhikari’s suspension had met with widespread criticism, with former governors calling it an attack on the autonomy of the central bank. The court has also said the central bank is an autonomous body and the government can not interfere with it.
The government move to suspend Adhikari also came at a time when the finance minister was facing criticism for failing to prevent the economic crisis facing the country.
Sharma faced a moral question after the court returned Adhikari to office.
The court has decided to start the final hearing on the petition a month after the government furnishes its written clarification over its decision to form the probe committee. On April 19, Phuyal’s bench had directed the government to submit clarification through the Attorney General’s Office within 15 days.