The much-discussed transfer of government land to people in Baluwatar has reemerged. Former Prime Ministers, Justices, and Judges have all been implicated in the Lalita Niwas Land Scam, according to evidence. The reasons why previous Prime Ministers Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Madhav Nepal were not questioned on the subject also grabbed the public's attention.
Looking back at the beginning of the case, it all started with the enactment of the Land Reform Act in 1964. The then-government paid compensation for the property owned by Congress politician Suvarna Shamsher's family, but the 112 ropani and 4 anna land were transferred to the names of persons in 1992 using forged documents. It has been confirmed that the land was transferred with the knowledge of high-ranking government officials.
It all began under the leadership of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai
Suvarna Shamsher, a Congress politician, and his son Kanchan Shamsher faced charges when King Mahendra imposed the panchayat system in the country. The family's 14 ropani and 11 aana of land in the Lalita Niwas region were confiscated by the then-judicial system. Similarly, with the adoption of land reform in 1964, the land in the Lalita Niwas area was also acquired, while the then government compensated the land above limit.
Suvarna Shamsher's sons submitted a petition to the government to get their father's confiscated property. However, most of the land was over the limit. Krishna Prasad Bhattarai's cabinet, in another decision in 1990, opened another way for the land that was confiscated before the implementation of the land reform system. Based on the decision, it has been found that 113 ropani and 3 aana of land in Baluwatar were transferred in the names of Suvarna Shamsher and Kanchan Shamsher's descendants and tenants. As the government confiscated 14 ropani and 11 aana that were in the names of Suvarna Shamsher and Kanchan Shamsher, the 113 ropani land in excess of the limit was set aside by this decision.
What happened during the time of Madhav Nepal?
When Madhav Kumar Nepal was Prime Minister of Nepal in 2009, key decisions concerning the land were made. The Council of Ministers agreed with the recommendations by then-Deputy Prime Minister and Physical Planning Minister Vijay Gachchadar, which assisted in converting government land into private ownership. The government, led by Nepal, opted to exchange government land for private land lost during the expansion of the Baluwatar residence. Based on the decision, tenants were established on public roads and in Rajkulo as well.
Madhav Nepal has been questioned about the decisions. However, he had previously provided the authorities with a statement in which he stated that he had made no decisions other than expanding the Prime Minister's residence. The Oli government referred to the Madhav Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai governments' moves as "contaminated actions against the existing law" and resolved to immediately freeze the property.
What happened during Baburam's time?
The government led by Madhav Nepal retained the rights of tenants even on government land. However, the cabinet led by Baburam Bhattarai decided to change the name of the government land to Pashupati Tikinya Guthi, claiming that the land was mistakenly kept in the name of Bhulvash Samarjung Company (which keeps records of government property) because the law does not allow tenants on government land. Tenant rights were valid on Guthi's property but not on government territory; therefore, the government transferred 12 aana and 3 paisa of land under the government’s ownership to Guthi property, which facilitated the private ownership of the land.
What happened during the Oli government?
Baluwatar government land was given to people and even traded as a result of choices made over a 29-year period. Four months after KP Oli became Prime Minister for the second time in 2018, the government appointed an investigative commission to probe the embezzlement of government land, coordinated by former secretary Sharada Prasad Trital.
The Trital Committee presented its findings with suggestions to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which will develop an implementation strategy. On February 23, 2019, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa 'Badal' presented the Home Secretary's suggestion of action to the Council of Ministers. It was determined that the government land of Baluwatar was transferred to the names of individuals based on various decisions.
The Oli administration described the choices of the Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai regimes as a tainted act against the current law and decided to freeze the 113 ropani and 3 aana land in the Lalita Niwas area immediately.
Judgement of Chief Justices
The Supreme Court's decision 15 years ago on the transfer of government land at Lalita Niwas in Baluwatar to an individual is being revisited. Following the authority's trial in the special court, the lawyers are defending the accused by citing the Supreme Court's decision and stating that the land was not government property.
According to the decision of the then government in 1990, the land belonging to the family of Suvarna Shamsher that was confiscated by the panchayat government was transferred to his family. More land were transferred into the names of bogus tenants and other persons.
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) received a complaint alleging that government land had been transferred to individuals. However, in 2003, the CIAA decided to put the complaint on hold. Suryanath Upadhyay, who is now serving in the case, was the head commissioner of the CIAA at the time. Following the decision, Baluwatar's land was bought and sold several times throughout Upadhyaya's reign.
Later, CIAA received a complaint against Upadhyay's decision after the government land was acquired and sold as private property. CIAA was determined to bring it back in the government's name. Shobhakant Dhakal, his wife Uma Dhakal, Madhavi Subedi, and Mohi Nhuchenarayan Maharjan, who are presently imprisoned, petitioned the Supreme Court when the CIAA confiscated the land. On March 13, 2008, the authority's judgment was overturned by a combined bench of then-Justices Balram KC and Rajendra Prasad Koirala, who ruled that the land belonged to the individuals, not the government.
The CIAA petitioned the Supreme Court for a judicial review after the bench, which included Balram KC, established that the land belonged to a person. The complete bench of then-judges Meen Bahadur Rayamazhi, Anupraj Sharma, and Khilraj Regmi, however, did not grant a review, deeming the review of the ruling irrelevant. Following that, the CIAA's efforts to transfer Lalita Niwas' land from the people to the government were futile. All three had served their full terms as Chief Justices.
The land has been transferred with the assistance of the CIAA chief commissioners except for Rai, the authority's current chief commissioner: Attorney Koirala
Advocate Yuvraj Koirala, who has regularly filed complaints against the transfer of government land from Lalita Niwas to people, claims that the body that should conduct an impartial inquiry is influenced by the land mafia. He claims that the involvement of former Chief Commissioner Suryanath Upadhyay to Naveen Kumar Ghimire has been seen in the case. He says, "It was wrong to decide not to prosecute the jurisdictional case and put it on hold." It cannot be denied that it happened in this setting. He accused chief commissioners after 2003 of being involved in the scam.
Advocate Koirala argues that the authority could dispose of this case earlier if it wanted. But they started in collusion with the land mafia, he says, and apart from the current chief commissioner, Prem Rai, all the other chief commissioners seem to be in favor of the land mafia in this case. Advocate Koirala demands that everyone with a hint of involvement in the case be brought under investigation.