Local unit judicial decisions backfire for lack of legal savvy

Published On: April 18, 2018 02:30 AM NPT By: Devendra Basnet

DANG, April 18: Sahajram Ahir, chief of Gadhawa Rural Municipality in Dang,  has appeared at the  Province 5 High Court three times after someone challenged a decision of the local unit's judicial committee, which was taken without  proper knowledge of the law. 

Judicial decisions taken by local units without adequate  legal knowledge and under pressure from the locals have backfired. Although the constitution confers judicial powers on the local units, most of the heads of the judicial committees (deputy mayors or deputy chiefs) have been struggling to exersice such powers as they don't have legal knowledge or a legal advisor to fall back on. 

“I have made court appearances three times so far after a decision of the judicial committee of our local unit was challenged at the High Court. Let's see whether or not the court's decision will vindicate the judicial committee,” said Ahir. 

The situation arose after a local man filed an application with the  rural municipality  judicial committee as the ward chief declined to write a recommendation letter for land ownership transfer from his mother to himself.  Shanti Chaudhary, the  rural municipality deputy chief and ex-officio judicial committee head, made out  a recommendation to the land revenue office to meet the applicant's demand. But the land revenue office turned down the recommendation, stating that it was against legal procedures.  According to the law, only the ward committee  has the power to make such a recommendation. 

“I thought I was administering justice to the applicant. But now I realize that I made my recommendation  without knowledge of the legal provisions,” said Chaudhary. 

The case is now sub-judice at the High Court. Rural Municipality Chief Ahir has accused Deputy Chief Chadhary of taking her decision without studying the legal provisions and without consulting him. “A decision taken without studying the law has landed me in  court. When I asked her about the decision, she replied  that she had  consulted a member of parliament,” Ahir said. 

Admitting that her  decision backfired as it was taken without legal knowledge, Chaudhary  said that local representatives have to face pressure from the locals for expediting their work. “We don't have basic knowledge of legal issues. So how can we settle cases without legal advisors,” she said . 

The court case faced by Gadhawa Rural Municipality has triggered anxiety among judicial committee heads of other local units in the district. “The incidents of our  decisions backfiring are a big worry for  us because we also have to function without proper knowledge of legal provisions. The task of the judicial committee head has become a tough one,” said Lamahi Municipality Deputy Mayor Devaka Belbase. She said that she has put some cases on hold due to inadequate knowledge about the legal angles. 
Demanding the creation of a position for a legal advisor at the local unit, she said  she fears being trapped by her  own decisions if these are challenged in  court. 

Babai Rural Municipality, meanwhile, has appointed a legal advisor, but the advisor rarely appears in the office. “We have to consult him over the phone even while handling tough cases,” said Sabitra BK, head of the judicial committee at the rural municipality . 
Local judicial committees receive cases related to land  disputes. But they don't have the post of a land surveyor either  to settle  demarcation issues. 

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