South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The Supreme Court on Tuesday convicted former minister and Nepali Congress leader Khum Bahadur Khadka of corruption charges. The division bench of Justices Kalyan Shrestha and Baidya Nath Upadhyay sentenced Khadka to 18 months in prison, ordered that he be fined Rs 9.47 million and confiscate property worth the same amount.

The court on Tuesday nullified the Special Court decision of November 15, 2006 that gave Khadka a clean chit. The Special Court had pointed out that the source of only 8.21 percent of Khadka’s income had not been established. This, according to the court, could not be considered unusual and hence, had cleared him of corruption charges.

However, the SC has ordered the deduction of two days that Khadka spent in custody earlier.

The apex court on Tuesday found Khadka, who held various portfolios as minister in the 1990s and the early 2000s, to have accumulated property worth Rs 9.47 million, disproportionate to his income while in public office. The apex court also ordered confiscation of land registered under Khadka’s wife Sheela Sharma’s name, Rs 2.56 million, a Mitsubishi Prado registered in Khadka’s name and 33 tola of gold worth Rs 375,135 and 2.93 kg of silver. Khadka, however, can avail of the 20 percent waiver in the jail term and the fine if he surrenders before the court within 60 days.

The apex court considered ancestral property and compensation for property damaged during the conflict as sources of income. But the court refused to consider the salary that Khadka had drawn while in public office as a source of income, stating that the salary also included expenses for water, electricity and the salary of his personal assistant as well.

Similarly, the court did not give validity to stipends earned from foreign junkets as sources of income because, as per precedents, only 70 percent of the amount from the stipend can be considered part of income.

However, by Khadka’s own testimony, only 50 percent of the money was saved. The court also did not consider interest from banks as source of income.

The court instead said Khadka’s expenses were “unusual” in comparison to his income.  The court order states that although there may have been an addition to Khadka’s income from his salary and stipend, in addition to his income from his farm, after joining public life, he carried out expenses for elections and the education of his daughter and also bought property. Therefore, his expenses don’t seem usual in comparison to his income, said the court order.

Since crimes committed by people in high places are termed white-collar crimes, the apex court also pointed out the necessity for conducting a living standard survey for public servants or income tax payers.  Khadka’s was one of the oldest running corruption cases in the apex court.

The CIAA had filed the case at the Special Court on October 21, 2002 claiming that Khadka had amassed property worth Rs 23.6 million, which was disproportionate to his sources of income. However, the Special Court bench led then by Judge Bhupdhwoj Adhikari said only the source for Khadka’s property that worth Rs 1.2 million was not found to have been disclosed and declared Khadka innocent.

The CIAA had moved the apex court, challenging Special Court verdict which gave Khadka a clean chit.

The hearing of the case, which had reached the court five years ago, was put off a number of times. The apex court on March 27, 2011 had summoned Khadka before it.

The current hearing had been continuing since October 24 of last year following another order from the apex court on August 7 the same year to produce relevant files.

Source: – 15/08/2012 (