KATHMANDU, March 20: Newly appointed Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Sher Bahadur Tamang on Monday demanded that the property details of judges should be made public.
Making public his working plans and priorities during a press conference held at the ministry, Tamang said that the law would be amended to include a provision that will make it mandatory for judges to make public their property details. This would force them to stay clean in the discharge of their duties. "Necessary Acts will be brought in to strictly enforce a code of conduct for judges," he said.
Emphasizing that the property details of judges from the chief justice down should be put in the public domain, he said while the Judicial Council Act 2017 requires judges to submit their property details this information is kept by the council and not made public. The public had no idea about it. "The people have the right to know about any increments in the property holdings of judges," Minister Tamang added. "This would discourage the judges from accepting anything illegally."
Tamang himself has made pubic his material assets and has stated that this would encourage others to do likewise. According to his property details, Tamang has 30 tola of gold, a car, a motorcycle, and two laptops. His wife Ushakala Rai has land and other immovable assets in Morang and Khotang districts and six aana in Kathmandu district.
Tamang added that necessary laws would be enacted before the upcoming Constitution Day in order to bring into effect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. The ministry had already corresponded with the agencies concerned to forward the drafts of the laws to the ministry within the next 15 days.
He also added that he would be concentrating on providing sufficient resources for the judiciary. "We will work to provide sufficient resources to the judiciary so that it need not seek support from any other quarters," he added.
Tamang was hinting that the judiciary should not turn to donor agencies from which even the highest judicial bodies in the country have been receiving training for judges and staff and visit oipportunities to foreign countries. This is seen to have seriously undermined judicial independence .
Meanwhile, the legal fraternity, constitutional experts and civil society have welcomed Minister Tamang's effort to foster greater accountability, terming this a "bold move".
"This is a bold move taken for the sake of a corruption-free society. All non-corrupt people should encourage such measures as people have the right to know about the property of each judge and feel assured about his integrity" said former justice Balram KC, adding, "People must know how much property he or she had before assuming the office of judge and how much after retirement."
The judiciary, political parties, I/NGOs and the army are considered corruption-prone sectors in Nepal as of now, according to Berlin-based Transparency International. All these entities are beyond the jurisdiction of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, the anti-corruption agency.
Taking Tamang's announcement as a positive move, former justice KC said making public the property details of judges won't amount to breach of privacy . "Instead, it will promote public confidence in the judiciary," he said .
Like former justice KC, constitutional expert Kashiraj Dahal also stressed the need to revise the law to open the property details of justices to the public. "This will help promote honesty and integrity among justices and the judiciary will enjoy the people's full support," said Dahal, adding that many democratic countries publicize the property details of judges.
Until the year 2000, Judges enjoyed full immunity from submitting their property details. The Judicial Act of 2016 brought in a provision requiring judges to submit property details to the Judicial Council secretariat.
Constitutional expert Dahal said parliament should now revise the law to hold justices more accountable . "Parliament can easily revise the existing judicial act," he said .