When the country’s anti-graft agency, which is largely seen as failing to investigate the high-profile cases and take the accused to the court, is accused of pushing the low-ranking officials to the point of committing suicides for its alleged role in framing them, what will happen to the credibility of the anti-graft body? Or should we consider these cases as aberrations and allow the anti-graft body to continue with the business as usual? Incidents of suicides in recent times have raised question on the way the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is investigating the corruption cases. And it has become the subject of public scrutiny. Three persons, while under CIAA investigation, have committed suicide. On Saturday, Hari Prasad Acharya, a non-gazetted government official from Udaypur hanged himself from a tree, leaving a suicide note, where he accuses CIAA chief Nabin Kumar Ghimire of deliberately dragging him into controversy. Acharya, in his note, claims that he had no role in registering public land at Badbhanjyang as an individual property. “I have not taken a single rupee as a bribe. But I am being accused of big-time graft,” he wrote.
Acharya is not the first person to end his life over corruption allegation. In the last week of July, Yukta Prasad Shrestha, one of the accused in the Lalita Niwas land scam, apparently committed suicide following a repeated grilling by CIAA investigators. Shrestha, a former non-gazetted officer who had spent years at Dillibazaar Land Revenue Office, was interrogated by the anti-graft body in connection of registration of 114 ropanis of government land in the names of various private individuals. In the same month, Ram Bahadur Pandey, a former staffer at Tribhuvan University, killed himself at Tripureshwar. He was accused of tinkering with the marks obtained by various students to land them gold medals. Why are the officials accused of committing irregularities by CIAA killing themselves? This calls for CIAA doing a serious soul-searching about the way they investigate the cases.
It should be noted that all the three persons in question are lower ranking officials—Acharya and Shrestha were non-gazzeted officers and Pandey a low-level staff at TU. It is almost a given that no large scale corruption cases are committed without the nod and approval from the high ranking officials or powerful leaders of a political party. High-profile corruption cases including the wide-body jet purchase scam, Lalita Niwas land scam and Nepal Oil Corporation land scam are pending at the CIAA. Reports show that several political leaders, former ministers and top bureaucrats are involved in these cases. But no one has been interrogated or taken to court so far, despite CIAA officials claiming that they are still investigating such cases. This has fuelled the public speculation that CIAA is deliberately going after small fishes while leaving the big ones go off the hook. While CIAA must not spare anyone—commoner or a high profile bureaucrats and politicians—involved in big scams, it also needs to review the way it has been conducting investigations on low raking officials. Who knows? Perhaps these persons were innocent and they could not bear the insult of being framed as corrupt and chose to end their lives rather than live with public ignominy. These three suicides have something to say about corruption nexus and CIAA’s sense of responsibility, or lack thereof, to dismantle it. Read the suicide note.