A year of corruption scams, impeachment bids

Published On: December 31, 2017 05:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATMANDU, Dec 31: The year 2017 was marked by a series of scandals in the country. Less than two weeks into the new year,  the Supreme Court ruled that Lokman Singh Karki was not qualified to head the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), for reasons of academic credentials and past record. Karki, who had managed to land the top job at the anti-graft watchdog at a time when parliament was not in session, was also accused of abusing his authority to silence opponents. 

Karki's opponents,  mainly those opposed to his appointment as CIAA  chief, were summoned before the anti-graft body and probes initiated into their assets on the charge that there had been accumulated without legal means. The apex court ruling ended the reign of the controversial Karki, who is now in Canada. 

An impeachment motion was also tabled in parliament against Karki but parliament dismissed the motion after the apex court ruled against his appointment at the CIAA. 

Soon after Karki's removal, the ruling Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Center) also registered an impeachment motion, against Supreme Court Chief Justice Sushila Karki. It was Chief Justice Karki who had ruled anti-graft chief Karki unqualified, and in doing so earned the goodwill of the public. 

In the impeachment motion against the chief justice that was tabled in parliament out of the blue, the ruling parties made various accusations against her,  including promoting groups and undermining the functioning of the executive. What miffed the governing parties the most was the decision of the Karki-led apex court to reject the government's  appointment of Jaya Bahadur Chanda as chief of Nepal Police.  The court said the appointee was less eligible compared another candidate, Nawaraj Silwal. The impeachment motion was registered a day before hearings on the IGP appointment row were scheduled. 

The government came in for criticism from all walks of life for impeaching the anti-corruption crusading chief justice. Following the public outcry, the government, now led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, withdrew the impeachment.

Karki returned to the bench for a while but did not handle any cases. Taking advantage of Karki's absence from tthe judiciary the government appointed Deep Basnyat as chief of the CIAA, and Tankamani Sharma as auditor general. 

Karki's successor at the apex court, Gopal Parajuli, overruled a previous interim order to name Silwal as police chief. Instead, it ordered that Prakash Aryal be made chief of police,  citing merit as the basis. Miffed by the decision, Silwal resigned from the police  and went into politics.  Joining the UML party, he later succeeded in getting elected a member of  parliament from a Lalitpur constituency.  

Tax scam 

Like the impeachment of the CIAA chief and the chief justice, the Tax Settlement Commission's decision to waive billions in taxes payable by businesses dominated the media for long. The Commission for  Investigation of Abuse of Authority  arrested  Director General of the Inland Revenue Department Chudamani Sharma. He had also served as member-secretary of the controversial Tax Settlement Commission, and was charged for waiving billions while settling  tax dues. Two other members of the commission, Lumbadhwoj Mahat and Umesh Dhakal, left the country to avoid arrest. 

The CIAA sought Rs 10 billion from Sharma as bail  if he wanted to avoid incarceration during the investigations. But Sharma filed a writ petition at the apex court demanding that the bail amount  not be imposed, and the court obliged. With the case now in the courts, the absconding Mahat and Dhakal returned to Nepal. Their cases are also pending, at a lower court. 

NOC scam 

Nepal Oil Corporation Managing Director Gopal Khadka's attempt to pocket millions  while procuring land for the construction of  fuel storage in various parts of the country also dominated Nepali media for months. NOC, the state petroleum supply monopoly, was found "stealing" Rs 700 million in the Rs 1.5 billion land deal. 

Following Republica's investigations, Karki was sacked from his position. He later moved the  Supreme Court demanding  reinstatement in his previous position and the court ruled  in his favor.  The government, however,   transferred him to the line ministry.  It did not return him to the oil corporation in view of the controversy he had caused.

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