Minister wants judges' property details made public

Published On: March 20, 2018 05:30 AM NPT By: Ananta Raj Luitel

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 . 

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