KATHMANDU, Sept 23: The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has intensified its investigation over alleged irregularities in the Pashupatinath Temple’s Jalhari (gold) case.
Over the past few days, the anti-graft body has been summoning the officials involved in setting up the gold Jalhari in the temple and to take their statements. Sources said CIAA has intensified the investigation and is collecting evidence. "The investigation is in the final stage. It will take a few more days to complete the investigation," a source at CIAA.
According to the report of the Auditor General's Office, the dispute came to the surface after it was mentioned that around 11 kg of gold was insufficient while decorating the inner area of the temple with the gold Jalhari. This discrepancy was valued at around Rs 80 million at the time, sparking widespread condemnation. The issue was even raised in Parliament last June. In response, the CIAA removed the Jalhari and weighed it.
After performing a prayer (Sankalpa Puja) at the temple on January 26, 2018, the then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli announced to install a 108 kg Jalhari made of gold in the temple. The government allocated Rs 300 million, and the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) decided to contribute Rs 500 million to install the gold Jalhari. A complaint was filed with the CIAA, expressing doubt about the actual volume of the gold used in the Jalhari.
The then President Bidya Devi Bhandari unveiled a 108 kg gold Jalhari in Pashupatinath temple on February 24, 2021 amid controversy.
The then member secretary of the PADT Pradeep Dhakal had assigned the job of crafting the Jalhari to a committee headed by Milan Thapa, the then treasurer of PADT. The same committee crafted the Jalhari and installed it in Pashupati. Now the CIAA is taking the statement from the team of Thapa as well as Dhakal.
The CIAA has already filed a corruption case against Dhakal in the special court in June on charges of acquiring wealth illegally by misusing his position while he was the member secretary of PADT.
After Dhakal’s term as PADT member secretary ended, Thapa took over the mantle in late August 2021. Thapa is currently in charge of the PADT as its member secretary while the investigation is also being held concurrently.
CIAA spokesperson Bhola Dahal refused to comment saying that the case is currently under investigation. "The investigation is ongoing, and I'm not aware of the details. Everything will become clear after the investigation is completed," said Dahal.