KATHMANDU, NOV 19: Following the suspension of Lokman Singh Karki as chief of the CIAA, internal feuding between Karki and the new leadership of the anti-graft body has deepened, damaging the reputation of a key constitutional body.
Karki, who was appointed CIAA head some three years ago through an ordinance without the endorsement of Parliament, has been suspended on the charge of abusing his authority to silence his opponents.
CIAA Commissioner Deep Basnyat, who remained loyal to Karki until the latter's suspension, has now become acting head of the body on the basis of seniority.
Immediately after taking charge, Basnyat changed his tune and turned tough against Karki.
Karki's secretariat has been completely dismantled and the security personnel assigned to the CIAA have also been significantly reduced in number.
A writ petition has been filed at the Supreme Court against the four commissioners--Basnyat himself, Sabitri Gurung, Nabin Ghimire and Ganesh Raj Joshi--arguing that the commissioners lack the required eligibility for their posts. According to the writ petition filed by Dakshya Bahadur Chhetri, only Pathak meets the constitutionally set criteria for holding that office.
Citing Article 238(6) of the Constitution, the writ petitioner argues that one should have at least 20 years of experience in the fields of either accounting, revenue, engineering, law, development or research and should be a person of distinction.
Commissioners Basnyat, Ghimire and Joshi, who came from the civil service, and professor Gurung, do not meet the required criteria, according to the writ petitioner. The petitioner claims that since the Constitution has not envisioned experience in the civil service as a required qualification, the commissioners, except for Pathak, are not eligible.
The writ petition, according to an aide close to Basnyat, was prepared after consultations with suspended CIAA chief Karki. Advocate Balkrishna Neupane, Komal Prakash Ghimire, Narayan Adhikari, Pathak and Karki himself had prepared writ petition some four days ago with a view to influence the hearings set for Karki's eligibility for the post of chief commissioner. The apex court has set December 1 as the date for conducting hearings in all cases related to Karki, including his eligibility or otherwise. "The writ petition was filed to either influence the scheduled hearing or not let the other commissioners continue to work at the CIAA if the court disqualifies him [Karki]," said an aide to Basnyat.
Pathak, who was considered a close confidant of Karki, is still consulting the latter on legal issues, and this despite the restrictions imposed by the acting CIAA head. Acting head Basnyat has barred CIAA officials from meeting Karki, who continues to live in the official residence within CIAA premises at Tangal. Commissioners Basnyat, Sabitri Gurung, Nabin Ghimire and Ganesh Raj Joshi are said to be forming an alliance to weaken Karki's influence over their office.
Experts on corruption matters say the wrangling among the commissioners will further damage the image of the anti-graft body. "This type of wrangling will definitely not strengthen the anti-graft body," said former CIAA chief Suryanath Upadhya.
Upadhyaya, who is credited with handling high-profile corruption cases without causing any controversies, urges the court to come up with a verdict at the earliest. "Otherwise, it will destroy the image of the anti-graft body. Even if the court disqualifies all those hauled before it, this is an opportunity for the political parties to pick the right candidates for this vital office," said Upadhyay.