Special Court to begin prosecutions in Lalita Niwas case next week

Published On: February 8, 2020 08:55 AM NPT

KATHMANDU, Feb 8: The Special Court on Friday said it will begin the process of prosecuting the case arising from the Lalita Niwas land scam from next week. 

Considering the magnitude of the case in terms of the people involved and fines sought by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), officials at the fast-track court established to deal with corruption cases said they have already started the preparations for prosecution. The actual prosecution, however, will begin from Monday. 

“We have already started entering the details of all the accused in our system. And we will start dispatching court summons to all the accused before conducting preliminary hearings from Monday,” said Pushpa Raj Pandey, a spokesperson at the court, adding, “The accused will get a 15-day deadline to appear before the court.”

The preliminary hearings will begin once the accused appear in court. 

Although hundreds of other corruption cases are pending at the court, it has given priority to the Lalita Niwas case.

The CIAA filed case against 175 individuals including a deputy prime minister, Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, without producing them before the court in person. Apart from Gachchhadar, who is a multiple-times minister and senior Nepali Congress leader, former ministers Chandra Dev Joshi, Chhabiraj Panta and Dambar Shrestha, former secretary Dinesh Hari Adhikari, and former CIAA chief Deep Basnyat, among others, have been charge-sheeted for alleged involvement in registering government land as private properties.

They are accused of illegally registering more than 136 ropani of government and guthi (trust) land at Lalita Niwas, Baluwatar in the names of various individuals through the abuse of their authority or the concocting of fictitious land tenants. 

“Legally, the CIAA should have presented all individuals implicated in the scam while filing the corruption case. They didn’t follow standard procedures, so we are following a lengthy court procedure,” said Pandey. 

Existing anti-corruption law has a provision for presenting the accused before the court while filing case. But the anti-graft body often doesn’t arrest those accused, particularly when the case is a high-profile one. The court now needs to follow a lengthy process to summon the accused before conducting hearings over their involvement as they were not presented to the court while filing the corruption case. 

Most accused individuals often intentionally try to prolong the court process under various pretexts such as refusing to accept the summons or providing mismatching house addresses. The accused agree to be part of the court proceedings only when they see a favorable situation.

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