Review petition filed against former Minister Pandey at Supreme Court

Published On: April 5, 2023 09:40 PM NPT By: Bhasa Sharma

KATHMANDU, April 5:  The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against former Minister Bikram Pandey and 21 others, who were acquitted by the special court on corruption charges related to the Sikta Irrigation Project.

In the appeal, the CIAA has argued that the special court's verdict was unclear in the case. The CIAA filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The special court had cleared the accused, including Pandey who is the chairperson of Kalika Construction, on July 19, 2022, on charges of corruption related to the Sikta Irrigation Project. The government had incurred an additional expense of Rs 11.2 million for the repair of a breached canal due to the contractor's negligence. The petition has demanded that the accused contractors and others involved in the project be held accountable for their actions. Six sections of the project, including the canal, are yet to be completed.

The special court acquitted the accused on grounds that there was no study, design, agreement or knowledge about the possibility of sedimentation of the main Sikta canal during the construction of the canal. 

The CIAA claimed in the appeal that the contractors tampered with the documents and legal procedures were not followed during the project design.

In the application for the review petition, CIAA has said that one cannot escape away saying that the soil was porous when constructing the embankment. The decision to grant certification was flawed because it was made without proper analysis. The appeal requests that universities and research centers with expertise in soil studies be consulted, as well as independent experts and committees, to review the possibility of soil-related issues and give a special decision based on the reports. "The decision not to accept the reports of experts as evidence and to provide a clean chit is flawed," said CIAA.

Pandey, who is also the owner of a contractor company, became the urban development minister in the government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal while the authority was preparing to file an appeal. When he was the urban development minister, there was a lot of opposition saying that there was a conflict of interest.

Elected from Chitwan Constituency 3 on the Rastriya Prajatantra Party ticket as a member of the House of Representatives, Pandey is the head of Kalika Construction JV and an 'A' category contractor. The special court acquitted 21 people, including Pandey, who was also the former forest minister, in the corruption case. The Authority filed a case in a special court with the claim that Pandey and others committed corruption in the Sikta irrigation project. On December 5, 2018, the Authority registered a case against 21 people, including Pandey, in a special court with a claim of more than Rs 8 billion for corruption in the project.

CIAA had filed a case demanding a total of Rs 201.376 million against Pandey alone. After registering the case, Pandey, who had been on the run for a year, paid Rs 40 million in fines in the special court. The chairman and judges of the special court, Shree Kant Paudel, Ramesh Kumar Pokharel, and Yamuna Bhattarai, stated that they were unable to substantiate the corruption allegations against the 21 individuals, including Pandey, and cleared them of all charges. Prior to this, the special court had ordered Pandey to pay Rs 40 million in fines and instructed him to stay put by registering a date on January 16, 2020.

In Banke district, the main canal of Sikta irrigation project, one of the national pride projects, was destroyed while it was under construction. The authority ruled that the original canal, which collapsed during construction, was flawed in its design. The canal collapsed during construction due to the lack of monitoring by the technicians, consultants, and construction professionals assigned to the project. The CIAA claims that inferior materials were used during the construction of the canal in collusion between the construction company, irrigation department, and project staff, and mandatory quality testing provisions were not mentioned in the contract documents. Former officials involved in the project, Saroj Chandra Pandit, Dilip Bahadur Karki, and Ramesh Basnet, were demanded compensation of Rs 59.34 million, Rs 1.56 billion, and Rs 2.1376 billion, respectively, for the substandard work.

In addition, there were claims of irregularities and corruption against CDE Suryadev Thapa, Yogendra Mishra, Sushilchandra Devkota, Krishna Prasad Subedi, Prem Raj Ghimire, Bir Singh Dhami, Prakash Bahadur Karki, and Uddhav Raj Chaulagain, among others, for their involvement in the project. The amount of compensation demanded from them was Rs 272.259 million, Rs 585.924 million, Rs 178.43 million, Rs 104.015 million, Rs 118.559 million, Rs 90.152 million, Rs 10.4152 million, and Rs 32.917 million, respectively.

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