Wednesday, February 28, 2007

SC orders Chand’s firm to repay Rs 57 crore

Overruling its controversial judgment in the Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills case that curtailed the authority of the Credit Information Bureau (CIB) to put any firm in its blacklist, the Supreme Court today directed a sugar mills to pay back Rs 57 crore to banks.
A division bench of Justices Min Bahadur Rayamajhi and Sharada Shrestha directed the Basuling Sugar Mills owned by Arun Chand, son of former prime minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand, to pay back the banks’ loan.The bench also said that the court cannot remove the Mills from the blacklist as the CIB had the authority to blacklist any willful defaulter firm.
According to a lawyer of the Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank had directed the CIB to blacklist Chand’s firm as it had not paid back the loans even after several directions by the banks and financial institutions which had given the firm loans.
The firm had taken the loan from the Rastriya Banijya Bank, Nepal Bank Limited, Agricultural Development Bank, Nepal Industrial Development Corporation and Employees Provident Fund.
Chand, the owner of the firm, had filed a writ petition 21 months ago claiming that the Credit Information Bureau had no authority to blacklist his firm.
This is the first case decided by the Supreme Court in favour of the banks to recover their loans after the parliamentary attempt to impeach a few Supreme Court judges who had lifted the Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills from the blacklist.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had recommended the House of Representatives to impeach the judges who had removed the Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills from the blacklist.The court had then said that the CIB had no legal authority to blacklist any firm.“The court has upheld the authority of the CIB,” Rastriya Banijya Bank’s legal advisor Puarnaman Shakya said.
-Ananta Raj Luitel
Kamal Thapa appears before the CIAA
The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) interrogated then home minister Kamal Thapa during the royal regime Wednesday over his alleged role in suppressing the Jana Andolan II in April. He is the first to be interrogated by the CIAA on charges of abuse of authority in attempting to suppress the Jana Andolan II.

Thapa arrived CIAA to file his statement at around 12 noon. He was interrogated for more than two hours. The CIAA is expected to grill Thapa more in the coming days.
The CIAA plans to complete the interrogation of four ministers of the royal cabinet, whom have already been handed letters by it, within a week. The High Level Probe Commission led by Krishna Jung Rayamajhi had recommended actions against king and his cabinet members for their involvement in abuse of national treasury and authority. In the first phase, the CIAA summoned four members of the royal cabinet, Kamal Thapa, Dan Bahadur Shahi, Tanka Dhakal and Shrish SJB Rana. The CIAA had asked the four persons to appear for recording statement within seven days.
SAC agrees to finalise election related bills soon
The parliamentary State Affairs Committee has decided to pass all the necessary bills related to the elections of the constituent assembly immediately for the preparation of the CA polls.
In the first meeting of the committee, SAC decided to start clause-wise discussions on the Election Commission Bill from Friday.
Some lawmakers also said that eight party leadership was not serious on the constituent assembly.
Citing remarks of Ian Martin, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to assist in Nepal ’s peace process, that the election scheduled for June may not be held, lawmakers said, "A political consensus is yet to be reached and the parties are unable to have a single voice on the polls."
Speaking at the meeting, CPN-UML lawmaker Parshu Ram Meghi Gurung said that the committee needed intensive homework to correct some serious flaws of the Bill. He also suggested the committee to hold discussions with the EC officials and ministries concerned before giving it final shape.
Similarly, Purna Bahadur Khadka of Nepali Congress Democratic suggested that in view of time constraints, the Committee give the Bill top priority in order to carry out necessary preparations for holding the CA polls on time.
Altogether 73 proposals have been registered for amending the bill.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Clarify government’s stance on King’s message: Sharma
With the democracy day message of King Gyanendra drawing criticism from all fronts, Justice of the Supreme Court Anup Raj Sharma has suggested the Prime Minister to clarify the government’s involvement in the message.

During his meeting with Justice Sharma on Tuesday, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said that he did not have any information about the King’s message and added that he was surprised to hear about the King’s message in which he defended his February 1 takeover of 2005, reports the Kantipur daily.

Stating that the King’s message is illegal, Justice Sharma suggested to the Prime Minister to clarify government’s involvement in the message to the public.

Sharma further said that as the Prime Minister is working as the head of the state and there is no role of King in the constitution, the King should not give such message without approval of the cabinet.

According to the daily, a source quoted Sharma as saying that the government should inform people after interrogating the King in which capacity he has issued the message.

The duo discussed the King’s message, the Terai unrest and amendment in the interim constitution.

Prime Minister Koirala also held discussion with Indian Ambassador to Nepal Shiva Shankar Mukharjee and Chief of Army Staff Rookmangad Katawal as well.

However Justice Sharma said that he had visited Koirla’s residence to express condolence to the Congress leader Nona Koirala.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Writ filed for appointments in NHRC

A writ petition was filed at the Supreme Court Tuesday demanding immediate appointment of the officials of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The petition was filed jointly by advocates Shyam Babu Kafley, Basudev Bajgain, Om Prakash Aryal and Ashwasthama Bhakta Kharel asking for orders to appoint the NHRC chairman and commissioners at the earliest.

The Prime Minister, who is also the chairman of the Constitutional Council as stated in Article 149 in the interim constitution, Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers and the Constitutional Council have been made defendants in the writ.

The petitioners stated that delay in appointment of the NHRC officials had had a negative impact on protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

The NHRC remains without commissioners since nine months when all commissioners and the chairman resigned under the pressure of the reinstated House of Representatives. Hearing on the writ is scheduled for Wednesday.

Rights situation improved after democracy: INSEC

A right organization has said that the Human Rights situation has significantly improved in the country after the establishment of democracy after the end of direct rule of King Gyanendra.

The annual publication of Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) ‘Human Rights Yearbook 2007’ said that nine persons were killed by the state during the hundred days of Loktantra while 11 persons died at the hands of Maoists.

The report further said that 313 persons were killed by the state during the 15-month long direct rule of the King while Maoists killed 256 people.

“Based on the data of initial three months of democratic government, it can be said that the situation of human rights improved after the establishment of Loktantra,” the book said.

The report however had not included the situation of rights violations during the recent unrest in the Terai region.

Speaking at the programme CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal has said that Loktantra provided opportunities for the people while it was the state's duty to assure them the opportunities. He stressed on the need to shorten the transitional period.

Narahari Acharya, Central Committee Member of Nepali Congress said that Loktantra should first of all ensure human rights. Acharya further said that the state should protect ethnic, cultural entities.

Former member of National Human Rights Commission member Sushil Pyakurel stated that those recommended for action by the Rayamajhi Commission should be charged with criminal offence.

The commission led by former Justice of the Supreme Court Krishna Jung Rayamajhi recommended for action against 202 people for their role in suppressing the April movement.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Eight parties agree to amend interim constitution

The ruling seven party alliance and the Maoists today arrived at a consensus to amend the interim constitution as per the Prime Minister's address to the nation.

A meeting of the eight parties at the Prime Minister's residence in Baluwatar this morning agreed to amend the interim constitution in order to constitutionally guarantee the federal structure of the state and add election constituencies as per the population growth. However, the number of existing constituencies will not be reduced.

Emerging from the meeting, leaders said the decision of the eight parties would be presented at Sunday's session of the legislative parliament after approving it from the cabinet meeting scheduled for 2.00 pm today.

Top leaders of the eight parties participated in the meeting.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala in his second address to the nation promised to amend the constitution to incorporate federal structure of the state and to add the number of constituencies as per the population growth

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Social exclusion, discrimination must be addressed: Sundh

Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Lena Sundh on Saturday stressed on addressing all social exclusion and longstanding discrimination against any Nepalis, including Madhesis, Dalits, indigenous peoples, communities such as Badis, groups such as ex-Kamaiyas, people with disabilities and sexual minorities.

In a speech delivered Saturday morning in Birgunj, Sunch called for a peaceful resolution of the issues that sparked unrest in the Terai in recent weeks. Distinguished guests, friends,

Sundh was in Birgunj this weekend to see for herself the situation in one of the towns in the Terai affected by violence in recent weeks, and to better understand human rights concerns here.

In a press statement issued by the OHCHR-Nepal, Sundh was quoted as saying, "OHCHR-Nepal and the High Commissioner for Human Rights herself, who visited Nepal in January, have been extremely concerned about the violence and the many deaths and injuries that have occurred. I note that those who have been protesting have succeeded in gaining the attention of the Government of Nepal and I would insist that only peaceful means should be used to advance their concerns."

Expressing her sincere condolences to the victims of the violence and families of those who died, Sundh said, "The High Commissioner has committed her Office to support the peace process through the monitoring of all human rights aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement throughout Nepal. OHCHR-Nepal will continue to give priority to its monitoring and preventive protection activities in the regions and districts, especially those districts where the human rights situation is more volatile."

Stating that her office to have given the highest priority to monitoring the situation in the Terai, the OHCHR representative was further quoted as saying, "Our mobile teams have been investigating abuses which have occurred throughout the region. They have also been attempting to defuse tensions and prevent abuses and violence through dialogue and advocacy with local authorities, police and protest organisers. These activities have been carried out in the broader context of OHCHR-Nepal’s work to advocate for an end to discrimination and for appropriate representation for all excluded groups in the peace and electoral processes."

Sundh also made it clear that it was not an easy task to address and change such deep seated discrimination and could not be completed overnight; however, she added that by acknowledging the problem in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the parties have opened the way to change. "This commitment must be followed up with practical measures during the ongoing transition process to ensure that those peoples who have been traditionally left out of the political process are able to participate equally in shaping the new Nepal," she said. Sundh stated that OHCHR-Nepal will work with the incoming government and civil society organisations representing marginalised communities to assist in the development of measures that can begin to eliminate discrimination in Nepal. Expressing concerns over the human rights abuses, she said, "OHCHR-Nepal is focusing on two other crucial issues in the transitional period that we believe must be addressed in order to ensure that there will be no further human rights abuses in Nepal." "Impunity must end, especially for serious human rights abuses. Those who hold positions of power and public responsibility must be accountable to the public, not least the State security forces. It is essential to create a new culture within the security forces, including any new or reformed forces, of being accountable before the law, to ensure that human rights violations are not repeated," Sundh said.

Underscoring the importance of the partnership between OHCHR-Nepal and human rights defenders, Sundh said, "Without them we would not be able to do our work. We will continue to strengthen this partnership that has developed since OHCHR-Nepal began its activities."

Parties busy discussing details of constitution amendment

The political parties are busy discussing the nitty-gritty of amendment proposals to introduce necessary changes in the interim constitution incorporating the demands of Madhesi, Janjati and other communities.

The meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of Nepali Congress started at Baluwatar this morning. The meeting is expected to come up with concrete proposals regarding how to incorporate the demands of Madhesi and Janjati people and the address made by the Prime Minister, in the interim constitution.

Likewise, the standing committee of the Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) is also going to meet this afternoon to discuss the same issue. The United Leftist Front will also hold its meeting today. Reports say there are possibilities of top leaders of four parties meeting today to discuss the issue of amending the constitution.

The parties are busy in their internal homework regarding the amendment of the interim constitution as per the decision of the cabinet on Friday to let the eight parties finalise the amendment proposal before cabinet approves it and introduces it formally at the interim parliament.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Govt unveils competition law

The government on Wednesday unveiled the competition law, which for the first time has dealt at length with anti-competitive practices and prescribed stringent actions against practitioners of undue business nexuses and unethical practices.

The spirit of the law is to promote self-discipline among business players, said Prachanda Man Shrestha, joint secretary at Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) referring to the new Competition Promotion and Market Protection Act.

But, if companies still resorted to activities that distort market, and hurt competitors and consumers' interest, they would face stringent action from the state. “Its objectives are to discourage wrongdoers and safeguard consumers and genuine players as well,” added Shrestha.

Likewise, the Act has for the first time cushioned consumers and business competitors with compensation measure in case they suffer loss and damage due to anti-competitive practices.

With the enactment of the law, tied selling, bid rigging, cartel, collective price fixing, market restrictions, dial-system, market segregation, undue business influences, syndicate and exclusive dealing has now officially become illegal activities in the country.

It has also restricted companies from exercising malafide investment and business takeovers and sales of inferior quality goods.

Companies henceforth have been barred from taking over more than 50 percent shares of companies in the same business in case it establishes their monopoly in the market. “In case of defiance, a fine of up to half million rupees will be slapped,” says the Act.

The Act further states that firms resorting to bid rigging will be fined up to Rs 300,000 and those trying to establish monopoly will be slapped Rs 100,000.

In case of attempts of market restrictions, companies will be fined up to Rs 50,000. Likewise, tied selling and activities of misinforming consumers can be fined up to Rs 25,000.

The Act has set fines not just for the companies. Even consumers and parties who lodge complaints against the business firms without substantive grounds could be fined Rs 10,000.

“This provision has been incorporated to check ill-intended actions against companies,” said Harish Chandra Dhungana, an advocate at a program organized to disseminate the Act.

Experts and consumer rights activists speaking on the occasion said the Act was fairly balanced. But they expressed skepticism over its effective implementation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ICRC to publish names of 800 missing persons

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has sought to clarify the status of 800 missing persons whose name it will be publishing shortly.

The list of names of more than 800 persons reported missing by their families is to be published on February 15 in Nepal by the ICRC in an attempt to obtain information on their fate.

"ICRC has the names of more than 800 people who remain unaccounted for in the wake of the armed conflict. The families of these missing persons suffer intolerably from not knowing what has happened to their loved ones and they have the right to know", stated Mary Werntz, Head of the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nepal.

Under international humanitarian law, all parties to the conflict must take all feasible measures to account for persons reported missing as a result of the armed conflict and must provide their families with any information they have on their fate.

"I appeal to all families anxiously waiting for news of their missing relatives and to anyone else who may know about the fate of a person who remains unaccounted for to check our list. If your missing relative is not on the list, or if you have any information about the fate of anyone on the list, please contact the nearest Red Cross office and make sure it is informed" said Werntz.

"Since it began work in Nepal in 1998, the ICRC has regularly submitted all requests concerning missing persons to the parties to the armed conflict and demanded that families be told about the fate of these persons. The ICRC and the Nepalese Red Cross are firmly committed to pursuing their efforts on behalf of the families and to seeking to alleviate their suffering," states a press release issued by ICRC on Wednesday.

SC orders govt to release Kamal Thapa

The Supreme Court (SC) Wednesday ordered the government to release former royal-appointed minister Kamal Thapa from detention.

Thapa was arrested by the government authorities a few weeks back on charges of stirring1 the Terai unrest that claimed the lives of 24 people.

The apex court in its ruling today said that the detention of Thapa was "illegal," .

Thapa had been handed a three-month detention warrant in late January.

Former home minister of the erstwhile royal cabinet, Thapa, has also been held responsible for the bloody crackdown on protesters during popular Janaandolan-II in April last year.
No need to test Thapa’s case: Home Ministry

The Home Ministry has urged the Supreme Court not to test the habeas corpus petition seeking the release of former Home Minister of the royal cabinet Kamal Thapa.

Responding to the show cause notice of the SC, the ministry claimed that the case need not be examined as he was remanded in 90-day preventive detention under Peace and Security Act 1989 and there was no need for the SC to intervene as the government was legally authorised to put anyone in preventive detention.

The Ministry also claimed that he has been remanded in preventive detention under clause 3 (1) of the Act after serving him a notice, adding, “The Court’s intervention was not necessary as per Clause 11 of the Act.”

Former Minister Thapa was arrested in the charge of instigating violence in the Terai. Two other royal ministers Badri Prasad Mandal and Salim Miya Ansari were also arrested on the same charges.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ICJ calls for amendment of interim constitution; wants independence of judiciary guaranteed

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has written a letter addressed to Speaker of the parliament Subhash Nemwang appealing for the amendment in the interim constitution to allow for the fully independent judiciary, among others.

In a letter signed by its general secretary Nicholas Howen, the ICJ has recommended that the "interim constitution be amended to state clearly that the judiciary in Nepal shall be independent and that it is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe that independence."

The letter has stated that the interim constitution should also guarantee the right of everyone to be tried, not only by a competent court or judicial authority, but by an independent court or judicial authority.

"Ensuring and protecting the independence of the judiciary is at the heart of the rule of law, the administration of justice, including fair trial rights, and is an essential part of the institutions necessary to implement human rights guarantees and provide effective remedies," it further states.

The ICJ has mentioned that the independence of the judiciary could well become critical in Nepal as a check and balance and oversight mechanism in the months ahead.

The ICJ's letter has come in the wake of numerous appeals by the legal practitioners regarding the need to make judiciary fully independent in the interim constitution.

In its letter, the ICJ has listed thirteen recommendations for amendment in the interim constitution including in the provisions about discrimination, fundamental rights, rights against enforced disappearances, freedom of expression and emergency powers.

The ICJ has stated that promulgation of the interim constitution is a considerable achievement and represents a further positive development towards sustainable peace and democracy in Nepal. "The ICJ welcomes many of the provisions in the Interim Constitution, in particular the confirmation that Nepal is an inclusive and fully democratic State committed to multiparty democracy, the commitment to the rule of law, the recognition of the National Human Rights Commission as a constitutional body, and the elaboration of fundamental human rights and freedoms. These components will lay a foundation for the protection and promotion of human rights in Nepal," it says.

Two electoral legislations registered at the parliament

In the wake of growing demands for expediting formulation of necessary electoral legislations, the government has registered two draft legislations at the legislative parliament secretariat on Monday.

The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs registered Election Bill 2063 and Election (Crime and Punishment) Bill 2063 at the secretariat.

On Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Bhoj Raj Pokharel had urged the top leaders of eight parties to urgently formulate laws including the Constituent Assembly elections act and Political Parties Registration act.

Dr. Pokharel had warned that delay in their formulation could prevent the Election Commission from holding the CA polls on time.

Following the warning, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala initiated consultations with UML general secretary and Speaker about the legislations.

Draft bill to amend interim constitution finalised

The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs finalised the draft of the bill to amend the interim constitution as per the agreement between ruling seven party alliance and Maoists and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s address to the nation.

Newspaper reports quoted a highly placed source at the Ministry as saying that the ministry has prepared the draft and sent it to the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet for approval to table it in the legislative parliament.

“We have prepared the draft adopting the federal system of governance, reviewing the election constituencies as per the sprit of the address of the PM to the nation,” the source added.

The draft would be tabled at the legislative parliament within a week.

Attorney General Yagya Murti Banjade and Secretary at the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Kul Ratna Bhurtel held discussion to finalise the draft on Monday.

According to sources, Article 134 and 154 of the interim constitution will be amended to incorporate the Prime Minister’s address to the nation and demands raised by Madhesi people.

During his address to the nation, Prime Minister Koirala said that they have agreed to go for the federal structure of the state and electoral constituencies in the Terai region and seats for proportional representation would be increased according to the percentage of the population growth.

According to percentage of population growth, it is expected that around 20 constituencies would be added in Terai region while four in the hill regions. Around 20 seats would also be increased for proportional representation.

29 people died and many more were injured in violent Terai protests demanding amendment in the interim constitution with federal structure of the state and increase in constituencies as per the growth in population.

Monday, February 12, 2007

PM issues directives for constitution amendment within this week

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala Monday issued directives to Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Narendra Bikram Nembang to amend the Interim Constitution and present it before the Council of Ministers by the end of this week.

PM’s directives today come in the wake of the meeting between himself and CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal in which both had agreed to immediately pass the necessary laws through parliament in the run-up to the elections to a constituent assembly slated for mid-June.

Likewise, the two leaders also agreed to call a meeting of the eight parties to iron out the remaining differences between the eight parties on the modalities of the elections including the contentious issue like reconfiguration of electoral constitution, election procedure, number of ballot papers, and vote counting process among others.

Earlier Prime Minister Koirala had a meeting with UML General Secretary Madhav Nepal to discuss the issues regarding CA elections as the Election Commission had repeatedly made requests to the government and parties to formulate election laws, Constituent Assembly Election Court to address crime and punishment during the election within the third week of February.

In an interaction programme with top leaders of all political parties representing the Interim Legislature-Parliament yesterday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Bhoj Raj Pokharel had said that the government and political parties should make a political decision to adopt possible electoral system, use of ballot paper, formulate necessary laws related to elections and immediately announce the dates for the elections to make it happen. The CEC also warned that the commission alone cannot hold elections by the given deadline of mid-June if the parties don’t reach a consensus to provide necessary support to the commission.

However, yesterday’s interaction programme at the commission’s office was not attended by the prime minister.

Over 800,000 receive citizenship certificate from mobile teams

More 800,000 people have received their citizenship certificates within a month of the distribution by the government mobile teams.

The government had sent mobile teams to various areas of Terai and hilly regions to distribute citizenship certificates to the eligible citizens.

Discussions are underway about resending the mobile teams to various Terai regions that could not be covered earlier because of the Madhesi movement.

According to the statistics provided by the Home Ministry, the highest number of citizenships was distributed in Bara where the count reached is more than 20,000.

In the Himalayan region, the distribution process is to begin from Tuesday because of the cold weather condition.

Panel finds 25 guilty in RCCC case

A judicial panel formed to document the excesses of the dissolved Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC), formed by King Gyanendra to "deal with graft" after his takeover, has recommended action against 25 individuals for "abusing power".

Government lawyers, bureaucrats and police officers are among the individuals, besides RCCC's Chairman Bhakta Bahadur Koirala and its four members.

Though the King had constituted RCCC through a royal decree exercising the emergency provision of the 1990-constitution, the panel has not reported any action to the king, a source told the Post on condition of anonymity.

Controversial ever since its formation, the anti-graft tribunal was dissolved by the Supreme Court on February 3, 2006. The court had declared the body unconstitutional. It had arrested many politicians, including former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, former minister Prakash Man Singh, bureaucrats, and a judge.

The report has not been made public, however. The Post has received the names of some individuals found guilty by the panel.

The names include Koirala, members Shambhu Prasad Khanal, Raghu Chandra Bir Singh, Prem Bahadur Khati, Hari Babu Choudhari and member secretary Shambhu Bahadur Khadka. The panel has asked the government to take action against these individuals, except Shambhu Bahadur Khadka, accusing them of misuse of power, under the Corruption Control Act. But the panel has recommended that the Judicial Council take action against Khadka, who is now an appellate court judge. Khadka has been found guilty of working in the RCCC without mandatory permission of the Judicial Council.

Similarly, other names are government lawyers Prem Raj Karki and Rajendra Pokhrel, bureaucrats Ram Prasad Ghimire and Krishna Prasad Sapkota. Ghimire had directed the arrest of Pyuthan District Judge Birendra Kumar Karna on the charge of accepting bribe. Karna was then relieved from the post.

Police officers also feature in the panel's report on guilty individuals. They are Binod Singh, Basanta Kunwar, Madhav Khanal, among others.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister Sunday assured the panel headed by Appellate Court Judge Madhav Ojha of action upon recommendation, while accepting the report.

According to Ram Prasad Gaudel, a member of the panel, Prime Minister GP Koirala also committed to make public the report "as soon as possible".

The panel has recommended to the government that a law be enacted to provide compensation to the victims of RCCC excesses. "The panel has received 28 formal applications from victims but there are scores of them," a source involved in preparing the report told .
Decide quick on electoral law: EC chief

The Election Commission has said that complexities will arise in holding the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in time if immediate decision is not taken by the political parties on the laws and electoral system.There is a constitutional arrangement and declared commitment of the eight political parties to hold the CA elections by mid-June this year.
Chief Election Commissioner Bhojraj Pokhrel at a programme organised by the commission to inform about the preparations being made on the election, to the top leaders of the eight and other political parties, complained that there still remains the lack of laws and guidelines on the election. He said the government, parliament and political parties need to give attention on immediately issuing the acts and regulations on election.
EC said it has submitted the draft of the Election Commission Act, the Election Offence and Punishment Act and the CA Court Act to the government and the CA Member Election Act and the Political Parties Act drafts are in the preliminary phase.He said there is a compulsion to prepare 25 kinds of guidelines and five regulations of 1,000 pages after the preparation of the acts.The EC has made a schedule to end the works of the approval of the acts by February 17 and to hold the election on the final week of mid-June. According to the preliminary data, the number of voters has increased by 15 percent and reached 15. 3 million and there is no situation to collect names of temporary voters because of the existing structures.
Pokhrel called on the political parties to amend the voters' act to resolve the problems seen in the collection of temporary voters. There will be 11,500 polling centres and 6,000 additional sub-centres for the election. The semi-transparent plastic ballot boxes will be used, and discussion will be made on using electronic voting in some limited town areas. The EC needs 140,000 employees for the elections to hold on a single day, and needs Rs. two billion, 780 million for the collection of voters lists and elections.The commission has so far invited the UN, SAARC Election Commissions, Carter Centre of USA, European Union, and Japan, and that some Asian and African countries' governments, institutions, national observers and diplomatic missions will also be written for it.The EC also called for stopping public hindrance to the election programme and high priority from all sectors and speedy fixing of the date of the election.
Rights group flays abduction by Maoists
Issuing a press release, the Human Rights and Peace Society has said its serious attention has been drawn regarding the abduction of Padma Prasad Chaulagai of Jorpati-1 of Kathmandu by the a group of Maoists on Friday. Expressing regret towards the incident committed by the Maoists not abiding by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that reached between the Maoists and the Government, the Society has appealed for his unharmed immediate release. Meanwhile, the Society has also appealed again to the Maoists to immediately return seized vehicle (Ba 3 Pa 4461) and Motorbike (Ba. 20 pa. 2204) of Rabin Shrestha of Sakhu of Kathmandu.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Govt will initiate action against RCCC officials: PM

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala Sunday asserted that the government would take the action against the officials of the dissolved Royal Commission on Corruption Control (RCCC) formed during the erstwhile royal government. The PM made the remark today after receiving the proposal of the high-level probe commission set up to investigate the excesses committed by the Royal Commission. According to probe member Ram Prasad Gaudel, the PM today expressed his commitment towards meting out action against those found guilty as per the recommendation of the report following a thorough study of the proposal by the government. The government had set up a five-member committee under the coordination of former justice Madhav Ojha on October last year to investigate the activities undertaken by the then Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) formed by the erstwhile royal government and to present a report of the findings. The probe committee submitted its report after some three months of its establishment. The Supreme Court had scrapped the RCCC within months of its establishment stating that it was formed "unconstitutionally". King Gyanendra constituted the RCCC on February 16, 2005 under an emergency provision of the Constitution and later on gave continuity to the "anti-graft body" through a royal decree under Article 127 when he withdrew the three-month long emergency on April 29, 2003. The all-powerful body was given a role of both judge and jury, which legal experts claim is against the basic tenets and principle of natural justice. The RCCC, since its inception, was marred by controversy as its constitutionality was questioned at the national and international levels. As it targeted some opposition leaders, including former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, former minister Prakash Man Singh and bureaucrats, it was seen as a means to settle scores. Deuba and Singh were jailed as per a "verdict" of the RCCC.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Now CIAA to implement Raymajhi Commission report

The government on Friday decided to hand over the responsibility for implementing the Raymajhi Commission's report to the Commission for Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

A High-Level Probe Commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Krishna Jung Raymajhi was formed after the reinstatement of democracy to investigate the atrocities committed during the pro-democracy movement.

The commission had recommended the government take action against over 200 individuals including King Gyanendra who the commission found guilty of suppressing the April uprising last year.

Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Narendra Bikram Nembang informed that the CIAA now would begin the required process.

While stating that the committee formed to do the homework on implementing the report had submitted a proposal to the Council of Ministers yesterday to let the CIAA take action against the guilty, Minister Nembang said that those ministers who held major portfolios during the king's direct rule are on the priority list.

Minister Nembang said, "The CIAA will soon take action the ministers of the former royal government and other politically-appointed persons."

Minister Nembang added that if required, the CIAA could undertake further investigations.

However, the committee has not recommended action against the security personnel found guilty by the Raymajhi report.

Minister Nembang said action will be taken against guilty security personnel in the second phase.

The meeting of the Council of Ministers held yesterday has also handed over the responsibility of carrying out the required homework for the amendment of the Interim Constitution.

Nembang informed that the amendment process would be undertaken keeping in mind the demands of the Madhesis and other groups.

"Many issues that need to be addressed by the constitution have come to light at present. Even in Madhesh there were agitations which led the PM to address the nation. Therefore, we need to consult people from different quarters including the PM and speaker,” he said, adding, "After this, we will reach a decision as to which clauses in the Interim Constitution need to be amended or added... Accordingly, tasks will be carried out to make the required changes."

He further said that the amendment process would only begin once the Council of Ministers gives its written decisions and directives.

Meanwhile, government spokesperson and State Minister for Information Dilendra Prasad Badu said that the CIAA will also deal with those found guilty by the Raymajhi Commission of misusing government funds. Minister Badu said that the committee has been directed to begin homework regarding the others (except those who were found guilty of misusing government funds) and submit a final report to this end to the Council of Ministers at the earliest.

Speaking at a press conference today, Minister Badu said that the report will soon be made public after the committee submits its final recommendations.

Action against five -of the Raymajhi Commission recommended report– will be taken by the CIAA and action against the remaining individuals will be taken after formulating new suitable laws.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lawyer receives death threat from Maoists

Maoist trade union leader Ramesh Pant has allegedly threatened to take the life of advocate Jyoti Baniya over a public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court.
A consumer rights activist, Baniya, claimed that he received the threat at around 10:45 am on Wednesday. The Maoist trade union leader threatened Baniya over phone to withdraw the case relating to a recent decision to levy ten percent service charge on hotels. Baniya moved the Supreme Court to scrap the charge arguing that it is unjustified and hurts consumers.
Soon after the threat, President of Nepal Bar Association (NBA), Shambhu Thapa, called Maoist Spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara and sought clarification. NBA and Consumers' Rights Forum have condemned the threat issuing separate statements.
13 sent to prison

Chief District Officer of Chitwan Netra Bahadur Rawal on Tuesday asked 13 former army men engaged in vandalism of vehicles in different parts of Chitwan on January 21 to deposit of Rs 30,000 each as bail amount.
They had quit their jobs due to several reasons during the decade-long conflict in the country and were demanding that they be taken back to their jobs.
They were held by the police and cases filed against them under the public offence act.
On failure to deposit the sum, they were forwarded to the district prison on Tuesday. Those imprisoned included army men, armed police force personnel and civil policemen.
27 people killed in Terai unrest; protests not peaceful: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission, the national rights watchdog, has said that 27 people have been killed in the recent unrest in the Terai region.
A preliminary field report publicised by the commission on the Terai unrest said 21 protestors were killed in the course of agitation, 3 were killed by the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, two by unidentified people and one by the Maoists.
The commission further said that the agitation in the Terai region is not peaceful as claimed by the protestors.
“The protestors brutally murdered one sub-inspector of police, looted weapons of police and also vandalised public properties, so the protest is not peaceful as claimed by the protestors,” the national rights watchdog said in its report.
The NHRC also rapped the protestors for creating obstacles hampering the work of hospitals, ambulances, journalists and rights activists, adding, “Some journalists have been displaced from their workplace due to threats from protestors.”
The NHRC has recommended the government to immediately address the demands of Madhesi people by holding talks and maintain law and order situation in Terai districts.
The NHRC also asked the government to provide appropriate compensation to the families of deceased, provide treatment to the injured and also provide appropriate compensation to the damages incurred during the protests.
The NHRC also asked the government to file a criminal case against the Maoist who killed Ramesh Kumar Mahato in Lahan and take legal action against security personnel using excessive force against general people in peaceful demonstrations.
Similarly, the NHRC also requested the demonstrators to hold their protest programmes peacefully, allow journalists to disseminate information freely and not to take domestic weapons in course of their agitation.
The NHRC has urged the protestors to immediately stop acts of vandalism, call off the protest programmes like strikes and not create obstacles that affect the work of rights activists, health workers and ambulances.
The NHRC also cautioned the protestors not to give communal form to the ongoing protest programmes.
Speaking at the report release programme, Yagnya Prasad Adhikari, Deputy Director of NHRC informed that the NHRC is continuing its monitoring work in coordination with other organizations as well.
Adhikari further said that a large number of people outside the city areas had also participated in the protest programmes.

No need to test Ansari case: PMO

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Cabinet today urged the Supreme Court not to test the habeas corpus petition, seeking release of former minister Salim Miya Ansari.Submitting a written affidavit, the PMO urged the Supreme Court not to test the case as the former minister “is being detained after completing legal procedures and is kept in 90-day preventive detention”.“Since he was detained after completing necessary legal process under the Peace and Security Act, 1989, there is no need to intervene by the apex court,” secretary of the PMO, Madhav Paudel, said.The affidavit also claimed that it was not the case to be tested by the Supreme Court, as Ansari was detained under Clause 3(1) of the Act.A single bench of justice Sharada Prasad Pundit had issued the show cause notices to government authorities — the PMO, Home Ministry and Chief District Officer of Kathmanud Thaneshwor Devkota — seeking reasons for Ansari’s arrest. The government had arrested Ansari on the charge of instigating the ongoing Terai unrest.Ansari’s aide, Mahendra Prasad, had filed the petition, challenging his arrest and detention.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

SC Show Cause on Hotel Tax Case

The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday issued show cause notices to the government authorities, including the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Cabinet, demanding reasons why they permitted hotels to collect additional service charges from customers.
A single bench of Chief Justice Dilip Kumar Paudel issued the notices following on Monday's hearing. The bench directed the authorities — the PMO, Ministries of Home, Finance, Labour and Transport Management, and the Nepal Free Hotel Labourers' Union — to attend the apex court within a week to participate in a hearing to decide whether to issue stay order as demanded by writ petitioners.
Four advocates had yesterday filed the writ petition, seeking the apex court order to scrap additional 10 per cent tax levied on hotel and restaurant customers. They also said that the agreement reached between hotel management and staffs to levy additional tax was illegal.
The petitioners said the government's permission to the hotels to collect additional tax from customers was illegal.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Election laws must come soon: EC
Election Commissioner Dolakh Bahadur Gurung today said it would be impossible to hold constituent assembly (CA) polls in Jestha (Mid-June) “if election laws are not finalised immediately”.Addressing a press meet organised by the Kaski District Election Office here, Gurung insisted that a consensus should be reached immediately among the political parties on the election system and process.“The Election Commission is all prepared to conduct the CA polls on time according to the commitment of the political parties,” Gurung said, urging the parties to help the commission in the formulation of essential laws.
CIAA to act on Rayamajhi report if govt wants
The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) today said it would implement the Rayamajhi Commission report and take action against people found guilty of suppressing the Jana Andolan II if the government wishes so.“We will prosecute those implicated in the Rayamajhi report if the government asks us,” Acting Chief Commissioner Indra Kumar Shrestha said.According to him, the CIAA will prosecute those guilty of misusing the state treasury and corruption as stated in the report.Shrestha was addressing a press conference organised by the constitutional corruption watchdog to make public its programmes to mark the 17th CIAA Day on February 9 and 10.Shrestha, however, said the Commission is yet to get a copy of the Rayamajhi commission report.“We cannot take action against anyone merely on the basis of the news published in newspapers,” Shrestha said.“If the government formally sends the report to us, we will do the needful,” he added.Asked about his view on the recent verdicts issued by the Special Court giving clean chits to former ministers Khum Bahadur Khadka and Govinda Raj Joshi, Shrestha said that they were corrupt and that the verdicts would not change his perception.“We had prosecuted them on corruption charges because they amassed property thorough illegal means and I still do not believe that they are clean persons,” Shrestha said.Shrestha , however, said he did not know how they got clean chits from the Special Court.“May be the judges there have different views and perceptions,” he added.He said that the anti-corruption watchdog will decide on whether or not to appeal against the special court verdict in the Supreme Court because the commission is yet to receive the full text of the Special Court judgement on the cases.Another Commissioner Lalit Bahadur Limbu said that the commission has not become sluggish, but has become more active after the government gave it a copy of the Judicial Investigation Probe Commission report. “Now we are concentrating on petty corruptions,” Limbu said.Asked about the non-implementation of CIAA suggestions, another Commissioner Beda Prasad Siwakoti said there are several hurdles hindering their implementation.
NBA Flay Attack on Scribes

Nepal Bar Association (NBA) on Sunday condemned attacks on journalists by agitators in the Terai region. "Journalists have the freedom of access to information and attack on them is condemnable," NBA General Secretary Madhav Banskota said in a press release issued in Kathmandu. "Such attacks on journalists must immediately stop and all problems should be resolved through dialogue," he added.