KATHMANDU, July 6: Finance Minister Janardan Sharma, who has been facing accusations of manipulating tax rates in the budget for fiscal year 2022/23 just to favor a handful of business houses and attempting to hide the evidence, resigned from his post on Wednesday.
For the past few days, Sharma fell under immense pressure from prominent people from different walks of life to quit the topmost position of the Ministry of Finance. Announcing his resignation at a parliament meeting, Sharma said he stepped down from his post to give a way out for the investigation to be carried out against him.
The House of Representative has decided to form a 11-member parliamentary probe committee to investigate the issue. Earlier, Sharma had been refusing to quit from the post, saying that he had not done anything wrong. “Why am I being accused of being unethical?” asked Sharma at the parliament meeting.
Besides facing the accusation of failing to improve the country’s economic health, Finance Minister Sharma has recently been blamed for manipulating the budget to serve the vested interests of certain business groups along with purportedly deleting related evidence that could prove him guilty. Minister Sharma has been accused of instructing four senior finance ministry officials to follow the suggestions of two individuals — a retired senior non-gazetted officer and a chartered accountant — on the night of May 28 and making some last moment changes in taxation with a view to benefiting certain business groups.
In response to the application registered by the Consumer Welfare Protection Forum, seeking to recover CCTV footage, Sharma refused to provide the CCTV footage of the ministry’s activities on the night before the date of budget announcement, stating that the system at the ministry is capable of maintaining storage of data only till 13 days of the recording.
However, according to the law, government agencies must maintain the CCTV footage for at least three months. In this regard, Sharma, on the one hand, breached the norm of the budget formulation process in which the tax issues are considered sensitive to be disclosed to any unauthorized persons prior to the budget announcement. On the other hand, Sharma outlawed the state’s rule by hiding the evidence and not respecting the constitutional provision of ‘Right to Information.’
Citing the ‘unethical move’ of Finance Minister Sharma, civil society, a group of former vice-chairmen of the National Planning Commission and even the lawmakers from the alliance of ruling political parties had been demanding Sharma’s resignation.