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Nepal: Political Corruption, Bureaucrats And Legal Authority – OpEd

Nepal landscape.Nepal landscape.

The impeachment issue of Lok Man Singh Karki, who is currently suspended as chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), has brought Nepal’s politics to the boil once again. He has been accused of running a ‘parallel government’ and of abusing his powers. The divisions among individuals, politicians and civil society on this issue seem deep and naturally the consequences will be huge and far-reaching. Unexpectedly, parliamentarians from both the governing CPN Maoist Centre and the main opposition CPN-UML registered the impeachment motion at the Parliament Secretariat, and debate on the impeachment motion against this chief of the antigraft body started a few weeks ago at the House.

I strongly believe that an impeachment process against any public authority for misuse of their power and conduct is no more than an ordinary political and constitutional function of the state. It is just one aspect of implementing a constitutional and legal provision. I wonder why on earth the whole nation is becoming so excited about it at this time? Many questions need to be raised here today: Why is there so much division among us on such a national issue? If seems as though the ghost of Lok Man is hunting everybody in the country including all senior politicians, members of civil society and the media. Why are we making a mountain out of a molehill? Who on earth actually is Lok Man? I wonder, too, what will happen to his political corruption cases against many leaders and individuals in the post-Lok Man era? I wish to provide some suggestions and innovations for change in this article.

Firstly, the impeachment process is going to be one of the first to be experienced by us both as a nation and a country. Despite the huge divisions among us on the issue, however, I suggest that we must take the impeachment motion as a collective and common project aimed at achieving greater justice and improving our political and social system. I strongly believe that justice must be the end. Our aim should be to establish the culture of a law-abiding society. While punishing anyone, existing laws and the provisions of the constitution must be the basis. Serving the rule of law and achieving constitutionalism must be the end. We must do what the law says instead of being influenced by individuals, leaders or politicians and so- called media rumours. We must follow legally, politically and constitutionally appropriate methods for deciding the individual’s case.

Neither Parliament nor a court of law should be influenced by rumours. Mr Lok Man is accused of having misused his power in targeting innocent businessmen, politicians, and lawyers while silencing critics and others. He is accused of acting as a “king” in the new republic. But this can only be decided according to existing laws through a valid court of law or by the parliament – whatever the available democratic, legal and moral processes in the country. The norms and values of the rule of law, our constitutional parameters and our traditions and customs must be protected. Keeping the rule of law alive must be the aim of punishing Lok Man if found guilty. The law as a tool must be the supreme authority and guideline.

Secondly, I strongly believe that the newly tabled impeachment process against Karki must follow a normal political and legal course. Parliament must regard this as their normal duty. Because of this, other major functions of the state that lie ahead such as state rebuilding, the transitional justice process, implementing the new constitution and holding future local elections must not be distracted. The impeachment motion should be seen as part and parcel of the implementation of our new constitution itself.

It must be seen as part of the process of making individuals, who serve on constitutional organs, accountable to the law, the constitution and the people.

The impeachment motion must also be seen as a process of making history, establishing a way for the future should similar cases arise. It must not be taken lightly. Through this we must be able to convey the message to the general public that under our democratic system, no leader, politician or member of any other constitutional organ, including the judiciary, is above the constitution.

Thirdly, and most importantly, critics have argued that the impeachment motion was tabled against Lok Man by politicians seeking to cover up their own corrupt activities because Lok Man was threatening them? Not long ago, these were the same leaders who had no objection – despite a huge public outcry – to appointing him as chief of the CIAA. The whole nation knows that our present PM Prachanda proposed him as chief, Dr Bhattarai praised him as a clean and able individual, and KP Oli, leader of CPN-UML, defended the cause. Where does this place the moral authority of our politicians? Where were their ethics at that time? What then suddenly forces them to take this drastic action today? Are these leaders really sincere towards the people, the nation and our laws? I believe that the individuals who appointed Lok Man in the first place must answer to the people. Their actions and omissions should be investigated properly and they should be brought to account.

Today, it appears that most leaders of our political parties are acting as if the sky is about to fall down. It appears that some leaders and some individuals of so-called civil society are fearful because of one individual. Why are they afraid? Is it because they are all corrupt in some way or other? Have they really done anything wrong? Did Lok Man devise a plot against them, against their corrupt activities? Only the future will reveal the truth, and our people will certainly demand that truth.

The whole country seems to be running after one individual? Why? I suggest that the impeachment process against Karki must not result from revenge being taken by any political bosses. It will be regrettable if the tabled impeachment motion was an outcome of fear. If that is so, the purpose of the whole justice system will have failed and the purpose of having a state and a government will become meaningless.

In a constitutional democracy, the authority of the law, its fairness and its essence of justice must prevail.

Finally, the Lok Man case represents the true face of our political system. It is an attitude that has become our social system. His case represents a style of how this country is run by our politicians, bureaucrats and others. It represents a system of manipulation, failure and domination. Who is not corrupt in this country including the politicians, civil servants, judges and members of the armed forces? Are there any institutions in this country that can be regarded as being fair and clean?

I believe that the impeachment motion at the House must be seen as an opportunity to reform all our public offices, including the constitutional organs. All must be made more law-abiding, transparent and accountable. This must be the lesson to be learnt for us from the Lok Man impeachment process. As the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric, I strongly believe that appointing Lok Man as chief of the CIAA a few years ago was part of a power struggle between the political forces.

Today’s case is nothing but a negative consequence of the excessive political bhagbanda between the political parties. Power, money and muscles have made our politicians blind. Public offices and institutions, including the judiciary, are already ruined by extreme political interference. This practice must be stopped and only able, moral and publicly acceptable individuals must be appointed to run such important public offices in the future

The cases of corruption raised by the CIAA, while Lok Man was its chief, against politicians, civil servants, businessmen and individuals from society at large must continue under investigation even after the departure of Lok Man. The struggle to establish a corruption-free society must be our prime social and political objective. Those found guilty must be brought to justice and punished whoever they are and whatever their rankings and status in the country. If Lok Man himself is found guilty of misconduct, as claimed, he deserves punishment as per the law. We common people will eagerly be watching post-Lok Man the development of the political corruption cases that he raised against politicians. The true face and intention of our politicians may then be formally revealed.


About the Author

Dr. Gyan Basnet
Dr. Gyan Basnet
Dr. Gyan Basnet, who holds a Ph.D. and an LL.M degree in International Human Rights Law at Lancaster University, U.K, is a Prominent Columnist, Lecturer & Researcher in International Human Rights Law and a Human Rights and Constitutional Law Lawyer in the Supreme Court and Subordinate Court of Nepal. Email: [email protected]

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