Nepal Police submits report on Finance Ministry hard drive to probe panelUML members in the panel want to study Janardan Sharma’s phone call details, but ruling party members say that would violate privacy rights.
The Nepal Police has submitted its forensic report on the CCTV hard drive of the Finance Ministry to the parliamentary committee formed to probe charges against then minister Janardan Sharma that he had employed outsiders to tweak tax rates on the night of May 28.
The probe panel had sent the hard drive of the Finance Ministry to Nepal Police last Wednesday after the Finance Ministry said records of the May 28 night got deleted because the hard drive had the capacity to keep records of only 13 days.
“We received the report from the police this afternoon,” said Surendra Aryal, secretary of the probe panel. “It’s sealed and will be opened at the next meeting of the panel which is scheduled for 8am Tuesday.”
After drawing a blank following its failure to find the CCTV footage of the night of May 28, the committee on Monday sought CCTV records of the southern and western gates of Singha Durbar. Committee members also discussed if they should ask for phone call records of Sharma. But members from the ruling parties in the committee said that such a move would breach the privacy rights.
“We had a brief discussion on call details after a few members raised the issue but we have not reached any conclusion,” said Man Bahadur Bishwarkarma, a member of the 11-member parliamentary probe panel.
Now, with the Nepal Police submitting its report, all eyes are on its content.
The committee had sent the hard drive to the police asking it to investigate if data had been deleted, and to retrieve the data if it was deleted.
Committee members, however, are not hopeful that the police have recovered any data from the hard drive.
“We are not much hopeful of the data recovery,” said Khagaraj Adhikari, a member of the panel representing the main opposition CPN-UML. “Let’s see what is in the report. We will know tomorrow.”
The probe committee was formed on July 6 following which Sharma had resigned as finance minister. The committee was given 10 days but it started work on July 12. After the 10 days of time given to it expired on July 21, it was given seven more days.
The committee so far has questioned Sharma as well as Madhu Marasini and Krishna Hari Pushkar, finance and revenue secretaries, respectively. All of them have denied charges that outsiders were involved in tweaking the tax rates on the night of May 28. Sharma presented the budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 in Parliament on May 29.
The committee, formed after the main opposition CPN-UML constantly demanded a parliamentary probe into allegations against Sharma, has four members from the UML and two each from the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre). From the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, there is one member each.
The members of the committee are Adhikari, Pradeep Gyawali, Bhanubhakta Dhakal and Bimala BK from the UML; Dev Gurung and Shakti Basnet from the Maoist Centre; Bishwarkarma and Sitaram Yadav representing the Congress; Sarala Kumari Yadav from the Unified Socialist; Laxman Lal Karna from the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party; and Surendra Yadav from the Janata Samajbadi Party.
According to Adhikari of the UML, more discussions are likely on seeking phone call details of Sharma.
“Members from the ruling parties have shown little interest in call details but if the police report fails to show anything, studying call details will be imperative,” he said. “The committee is mandated to investigate if unauthorised persons had entered the ministry. Call details may provide some evidence.”