Beginning of the end

Published On: February 8, 2017 12:25 AM NPT By: Narayan Manandhar

Impeachment motion became a botched operation because impeachers themselves were not sure about purpose of impeachment
With the sub-committee of parliament’s Impeachment Recommendation Committee (IRC) recommending not impeaching Lokman Singh Karki, who was recently deposed by the Supreme Court, the impeachment drama that got enacted with a big bang on October 19th last year has ended with a whimper (also see “Impeachment imbroglio,” Republica, January 25).  

The impeachment motion dubbed as a surgical strike has now ended in a fiasco after three months of dilly dallying and deliberations in the parliament. The IRC sub-committee has recommended that the motion cannot be filed against the official holding no position.

The sub-committee was also tasked to investigate half a dozen charges made against Karki. However, it is pointless investigating the “causes” when you have already disregarded their “effects”.       

Karki’s exit may have come as a sigh of relief for many. According to media reports, Karki has not only left CIAA but also the country. Could this be the end of the beginning of, as dubbed by his opponents, the lokmantantra (“rule by Lokman”)? Or will it be proved the other way round?       

From the very start, the motion was a botched operation. The motion, bearing the signatures of 157 MPs ironically starts from Number 2, instead of Number 1. This could be puzzling to the readers. But anything can happen in Nepal. The list starts from Number 2 because the Number 1 signatory decided to hide his name from the public. This is dishonesty. There is no need for public concern if our learned MPs have a unique tradition of counting numbers beginning from Number 2 instead of Number 1. However, it bogs down to the question of conflict of interest (CoI) when the same signatories, assumed to be dozen in number, were already under the scanner of the CIAA. How can MPs under CIAA scanner file an impeachment motion against its chief? This is CoI Number 1. There is CoI Number 2 as well. This has to do with five MPs who were also signatories to the motion but who got co-opted as the members of the IRC. 

The CoI Number 3 is even more amusing. After the parliament handed the impeachment motion to the IRC on January 8th for review and recommendations, the IRC formed a 3-member subcommittee coordinated by Ram Narayan Bidari, who was appointed by Karki in 2013 to plead his case in the Supreme Court. They seem to be thinking if Donald Trump can become the President of the US, ignoring all the cases of conflict of interest, why should our honourable MPs be subjected to that principle? There is no problem with abovementioned scenarios but you will be discomforted when you read UN Convention against Corruption, of which Nepal is a signatory, where conflict of interest is equated as corruption. 

The court reviewing the appointment of CIAA chief and impeachment motion against him in the parliament are two different issues entailing different ramifications. The former is related to testing candidate’s qualifications for appointment, albeit retroactively, while the latter is related to passing judgements on the performance of the candidate. 

It may sound sensible to say that it is meaningless to impeach an official who has already been disqualified by the court. Anybody keeping tab on this case will know that this is simply a posteriori argument, provided after the happening of an event. Had this not been the case, why would the supporters of Dr Govinda KC and MPs participating in the parliamentary debate argue that the impeachment process will move ahead irrespective of court verdict? If the reasoning proposed by the IRC sub-committee is to be accepted, this will set a bad precedent for the public officials to evade impeachment motions simply by tendering resignations before the parliament gets down to action.

The reason why the impeachment motion turned out to be a botched operation is that the impeachers were not sure on the purpose of impeachment in the first place. Was it to ditch out Karki from his position or to punish him for his possible abuses of authority? Looking at the unfolding of events it gives an impression that the MPs’ interest was in removing Karki from the CIAA. If this was the primary objective impeachers were firing cannon to kill a fly.

Together with the court reviewing appointment of CIAA chief, that too, nearly after more than three years and the botched impeachment motion in the parliament, our policy makers have killed the zeal of anti-corruption drive in the country. It will take ages for the CIAA to revive from the present controversy and make a fresh start. The agency was in first round of hibernation from 1990-2002; second from 2006-2013 and now it is into the third round. The corruption complaints data at the CIAA clearly nosedived (see the graph above). Who knows this could be the beginning of an end or an end of anti-corruption drive in the country. Is anyone listening?   

The author is a freelance management consultant

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