Former Officials Found Guilty, Politicians Cleared in Lalita Niwas Scandal

Former Officials Found Guilty, Politicians Cleared in Lalita Niwas Scandal-tramesh

Former Officials Found Guilty, Politicians Cleared in Lalita Niwas Scandal

The recent verdict from the Special Court has brought significant developments in the Lalita Niwas scandal, with over 100 individuals, including former government secretaries, facing convictions for their involvement in the illegal transfer of government land. Notably, politicians implicated in the decision-making process have been acquitted.

Following a thorough three-week hearing prompted by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the court found Deep Basnyat, Chhabi Raj Pant, and several others guilty of fabricating tenants for the land, along with officials from the Dillibazar Land Management Office. Prominent figures like Rukma Shumsher Rana, Ram Kumar Subedi, Sobha Kanta Dhakal, and Min Bahadur Gurung were also convicted for their roles in acquiring the land through unlawful means, receiving sentences of two years in jail along with varying fines.

As part of the verdict, the court has ordered the confiscation of land from 65 individuals, totaling 113 ropani (5.75 hectares), transferring it back into government possession.

However, the court's decision to acquit former deputy prime minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar and former land reforms ministers Dambar Shrestha and Chandra Dev Joshi has stirred controversy. Despite their involvement in the decision-making process during the tenure when the illegal land transfers occurred, they were absolved of charges. The court reasoned that Cabinet decisions, being policy decisions, cannot be scrutinized by anti-graft authorities.

Legal experts and critics argue that the exoneration of political leaders is untenable, as government employees and intermediaries wouldn't have executed such schemes without political support. There are concerns that the verdict may be challenged in the Supreme Court, reminiscent of past cases where the apex court overturned decisions made by the Special Court.

Moreover, the investigation into the Lalita Niwas scandal has unveiled a complex history of land ownership, dating back to the Rana regime. The land, initially acquired by former Prime Minister Bhim Shumsher, later became embroiled in controversies involving political figures and successive governments.

The scrutiny into Lalita Niwas began with investigations in early 2019, following a report by a committee led by former secretary Sharada Prasad Trital. The committee's findings exposed irregularities in the ownership of government, public, and guthi-owned land, leading to the formation of the probe committee under the KP Sharma Oli-led government.

The verdict underscores the intricacies and challenges of tackling corruption and land fraud in Nepal's political landscape, leaving lingering questions about accountability and justice in such high-profile cases.