Faulty appointmentOn January 8, the Supreme Court quashed the recommendation of the Constitutional Council (CC) and subsequent act of the President to appoint Lok Man Singh Karki to the powerful post of Chief of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) made some four years before.
On January 8, the Supreme Court quashed the recommendation of the Constitutional Council (CC) and subsequent act of the President to appoint Lok Man Singh Karki to the powerful post of Chief of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) made some four years before. The full bench also overturned the two-year-old ‘flawed’ verdict of a division bench that turned a blind eye to Karki’s lack of qualifications for the post. The ruling is based on two grounds. First, Karki fell short of the statutory requirement of minimum 20 years of service in the fields of accounting, revenue, engineering, law, development or research. Second, a man reprimanded time and again in the course of his career cannot be regarded ‘highly reputed’, as prescribed by the statute.
In fact, Karki’s image was so tainted that reputed civil society groups and media had strongly opposed his appointment. And both the CC and the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) that comprised chiefs of four major political parties constituted at that time knew this. Yet they chose to recommend Karki. For obvious reasons, Khil Raj Regmi, the then Chairman of the Council of Ministers who, disregarding all criticism, also held the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was hell-bent on appointing Karki. Even the then President Ram Baran Yadav, who had serious reservations about Karki, eventually succumbed to the pressure to appoint Karki, for the same reason.
Reasons behind the appointment
Besides that reason, members of the HLPC have their own reasons too, to appoint Karki. The latter had reached a secret understanding with the Maoists, then the largest party in Parliament. He had promised to dismiss, if appointed, the pending complaint against them about the embezzlement of billions from state coffers that was supposed to be distributed to the ex-combatants. Within the Nepali Congress, Karki had many partners, patrons and power-centres to share the spoils of corruption.
Karki had at least one common interest with the CPN-UML as well: to reap the benefits from the lucrative business of medical education, besides avenging themselves on Dr Govinda KC, whose selfless campaign to clean the country’s medical education sector had proved a stumbling block in the business interests of both.
Thus all the major parties including the Madhesi Morcha, which hardly ever reached consensus even on sensitive issues of national interest and always fought over their share of ‘party quota system’ (bhagbanda) in such appointments, were united in appointing Karki.
During his three and half years of office in the CIAA, Karki’s hypocrisy knew no bounds. While on the one hand, he used to moralise and warn wrongdoers through his speeches and tweets, on the other, he bargained with the ‘big fish’ and prosecuted only a few of them who could not reach a deal with him. For public consumption, he netted a large number of small bribe-takers and publicised those cases. He witch-hunted his opponents and critics; if prosecution was not possible, he defamed them in one way or other. He did not spare even those who never held public office and were therefore outside the CIAA’s jurisdiction. He threatened parliamentarians that he would entrap them in corruption scandals, particularly regarding the spending of their respective ‘Parliamentary Development Fund’. For over three and half years, Karki was successful in exploiting their fear and using it as a shield against a possible impeachment motion. Emboldened by the fear and passivity of parliamentarians, he stepped up the abuse of his authority.
Using similar intimidating tactics, he brought dozens of police officials of his choice (most of whom have tainted track records) on deputation from the Police Headquarters and formed a core group within the CIAA. Thereafter, bypassing and humiliating many civilian officials, especially the honest ones, he mostly relied on and mobilised those police officials. He borrowed sophisticated surveillance gadgets from national security agencies and ordered telecom companies to provide call details of people. He misused those gadgets and information for furthering his personal interests.
Karki undermined various state institutions, including Parliament, where he declined to appear when summoned. He challenged the Supreme Court and tried to obstruct justice. He unlawfully interfered in the working of the Nepal Medical Council—the regulatory authority of medical education—and increased the quota of medical students and fees in favour of KIST, a medical college run/owned by his own brother. In another misdeed, he conducted the entrance examinations of post graduate medical education of Kathmandu University—a renowned private university—for receiving kickbacks and exercising nepotism.
These are only some examples; the list of Karki’s highhandedness is too long. As such, the impeachment motion against him should have been tabled long ago. It wasn’t, because the political class lacked the moral courage to do so. If the political class had any moral standing, they would never have appointed Karki in the first place. It was only when Karki’s actions became unbearable that they jumped into action. And now, with the deposition of Karki, the motion has almost lost its purpose.
The Indi-visible hand
Coming back to the ‘primary reason’ behind Karki’s appointment, it points to the involvement of Delhi, especially RAW, India’s external intelligence agency. This is not a street rumour spread by pathological India-haters, as is often the case. This is information leaked by those who were instrumental in appointing Karki. Karki himself had been boasting about his strong ties with RAW.
I often wonder what national interest of India can be served by appointing Karki. After all, India’s legitimate political, security and business interests have been fully taken care of by successive governments in Kathmandu. Delhi’s policymakers, civil society groups and media all complain about (growing) ‘anti-Indian’ sentiments in Nepal. My question to them, therefore, is: what else do you expect when you micro-manage Nepal like this and select a person like Karki to look after your interests? It is time for you to do some introspection, even if you deny, in public, your involvement in the Karki episode.