Since the advent of democracy, a total of 60 cases have been filed by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) with the courts. Out of these, verdicts on 30 have already been passed, and the CIAA has not been successful in any one of these cases. Twenty cases were easily dismissed and in the remaining 10 cases, according to a CIAA member, the small fry were caught while the big fish got away. This means that all who were thought to be corrupt were actually given a clean chit by the courts.
Former agriculture minister Padma Sunder Lawati had three cases filed against him, and the total amount involved was almost Rs 43 million. The case against him stated that there were irregularities in the purchase of fertiliser from India and Lawati was responsible. Nothing happened to him, the courts proved him innocent and set him free.
The CIAA acts only after a notice, news or petition has been filed before it. It then studies the case, and if convinced that corruption has indeed taken place, it files a case in the courts. The person filing the petition does not have to reveal himself and can state that he is either a concerned citizen, the wronged person or one who just does not want his identity to be known. But the courts do not give importance to the findings of the CIAA, as it seeks the identity of the petitioner. Since the petitioner is not identified, the accused simply walks away free.
In the 1997 gold case which was filed against the then director general of taxation, Lok Man Singh Karki, the courts tied up the case in so much legalese that the case became untenable and was dismissed. The return of gold worth Rs 7.3 million, forgery, and outright abuse of power were the charges, but nothing came of it.
Another interesting case was that of contaminated milk powder. The then chairman of the Dairy Development Corporation (DDC), Devendra Jha, was the accused. It was stated that in the purchase of 415 tonnes of milk from Daly Foods, India, DDC had committed irregularities to the tune of almost Rs 47 million. DDC could not even get 100 tonnes of powder milk that the Indian company had earlier promised to supply.
Before the deal was signed, two officers were sent to India to find and report on the actual status of Daly Foods. They reported that the company had not been in production for the previous five months, the factory and its premises were in unhygienic environs, no records of production and standards were available, and that the company had only 120 tonnes in stock. Despite being aware of this, Jha still gave that company permission to supply milk powder.
In yet another case, that of the adoption of two children by a Spanish couple, files were hidden, new files created, accusations and counter accusations filed, the home secretary removed, and the case was turned on its head and tied up in legal words and statements. The end result was that the home secretary who was removed is now back in his post, the adopting parents did not get proper justice, and the case left to die a natural death.
Another case of blatant misuse of power was at the time of the vote of no-confidence against the then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Five ministers were sent to Bangkok at state expense. The state had given them $2000 each. Last year, the CIAA had sent a letter to the cabinet asking it to desist from such practices. The monitoring body has since stated that as the incident took place more than four years ago, it would not be worthwhile to file a case. Bhatta was the chief of the CIAA at that time. Incidentally the CIAA is still fighting cases that are more than 10 years old.