Dahal says court barred release of Lal panel reportThe prime minister claims his Maoist party didn’t misuse cantonment funds and offers to go to jail if found guilty.
Tika R Pradhan
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday said the government was unable to publicise the Lal Commission report as the Supreme Court barred it from doing so.
The report was produced by a team led by former Supreme Court justice Girish Chandra Lal after a detailed investigation into the months of protests in the run-up to and following the promulgation of the constitution in September 2015.
The commission was formed in February 2016 and it submitted the report to the then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on December 16, 2017. But the report has been gathering dust in government drawers.
The Supreme Court, issuing an interlocutory interim order on April 3, 2022 asked the National Information Commission—which had earlier ordered the government to provide the report as demanded by various individuals—not to implement its decision and maintain the status quo on the issue until another order, arguing that the report could disturb public harmony.
The order came after Chief Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi moved the court against the commission’s instruction to the government to provide the report to the applicants.
According to Ratna Prasad Mainali, a commissioner at the information commission, “the case is still sub judice at the Supreme Court as the government didn’t provide sufficient funds to the commission to hire a lawyer to defend on its behalf”.
The information commission and the attorney general were at odds on the issue as the former was in favour of making the report public while the latter had to defend the position of the government, which was reluctant to go public with the report.
The Office of the Attorney General thus said it was not in a position to defend the information commission in the case. After this, the commission asked the government to provide funds to hire lawyers, but to no avail.
Prime Minister Dahal told Parliament that he was in favour of publicising the report but the Supreme Court’s decision stopped the government from doing so.
He also said that the government has over the years released key portions of the Lal Commission report on various occasions.
According to media reports purportedly based on the commission’s findings, 66 people—including 10 police personnel, an 18-month-old toddler, four-year old Samman Patel and 15-year-old Nitu Yadav, among others—were killed during the 2015 Madhesh movement. The investigators visited 18 districts for the probe. In Tikapur of Kailali, seven policemen and a toddler were brutally killed by agitators in August 2015.
In October 2019, the Supreme Court had issued a mandamus order to the information commission to decide within three months on whether the Lal Commission report should be provided to a writ petitioner. But after the commission directed the chief secretary to provide the report, Bairagi moved the Supreme Court.
“It’s true that the Lal Commission was formed during my second tenure as prime minister to probe the Tharuhat and Madhes movements. I too am in favour of making the report public,” Prime Minister Dahal told Parliament on Thursday.
Twenty lawmakers put questions to the prime minister on Thursday in the first question-answer session of the new session of the House of Representatives. “I would like to inform you all that the Supreme Court has ordered against publicising the report for the time being even while we were discussing ways to make it public.”
The prime minister was responding to Rastriya Swatantra Party lawmaker Sishir Khanal, who asked whether the government would make the Lal Commission report public.
At least two lawmakers had questioned the prime minister about the citizenship bill, which was blocked by former President Bidya Devi Bhandari even after it was twice endorsed by Parliament.
Prime Minister Dahal said the ongoing confusion over the citizenship bill will be removed within a month.
Responding to a query by Janata Samajbadi Party lawmaker Dipak Karki, the prime minister said the then President had chosen to sit on the bill and now the government is exploring ways to resolve the issue.
“As prime minister, I promise that the confusion over the citizenship bill will end within a month,” Dahal said.
According to the prime minister, the government has been in legal consultations on whether the current President can approve the bill that was kept on hold by the previous President.
Legal and constitutional experts, according to Dahal, have said the current President can authenticate the bill and he has accordingly informed the President’s Office.
He further said President Ram Chandra Paudel himself has been in legal consultations on the bill.
“There could be another alternative to endorse the bill—through either a resolution motion or some other proposal. Opinions are divided. Some say there is no meaning to bringing another bill by annulling this one, but others argue the bill has already become void and a new one should be formulated,” Dahal said. “We will move ahead with one of these alternatives.”
Dahal, who led the decade-long Maoist insurgency, also responded to the alleged corruption in the Maoist cantonments for the first time in Parliament, saying he was ready to face a jail term if found guilty by a probe.
Also the supreme commander of the former Maoist army, Dahal argued that a section of people repeatedly brings up the issue as a political vendetta even though all cantonments-related expenditures were verified by the Office of the Auditor General.
On Aaam Janata Party leader Prabhu Sah’s question whether the government wished to investigate the Gaur massacre, the prime minister said all killings including the royal massacre and deaths of UML leaders Madan Bhandari and Jibaraj Ashrit should be investigated.
The Gaur massacre refers to the brutal killing of 27 persons associated with the Maoist party in Gaur of Rautahat district on March 21, 2007, by the supporters of the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, a party led by Upendra Yadav, who currently heads the Janata Samajbadi Party. Another 115 individuals were injured in the incident.
On June 1, 2001, nine members of the royal family including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya were killed in a mass shooting at the Narayanhiti Royal Palace. Although a high-level investigation found Crown Prince Dipendra responsible for the massacre, a section of the public believes the investigation failed to bring the whole truth about what is known as the royal massacre.
UML leaders Bhandari and Ashrit were killed in a road accident along the Muglin-Narayanghat road—Dasdhunga—under suspicious circumstances on May 16, 1993, and the party for several years claimed it was not an accident but premeditated murders.
The prime minister told Parliament that there must be a consensus among all parties before launching new investigations into the past killings.