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Following orders

MAY 05 -

When the Supreme Court cleared the way for Lokman Singh Karki to become chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), I felt that a dangerous precedent had been set in Nepal that will not only reinforce a culture of impunity but further encourage corruption.  

Despite enough evidence to charge Karki for his immoral acts, it is still not clear on what grounds the Court found him morally fit for such a high office. Karki carried out various illegal works to please the royal family so that he could first enter the bureaucracy through the backdoor, and then, get promotions and reach the highest position in this service. In 2006, he was responsible for making various attempts to crush the people’s movement. There were several incidences of human rights violations and the misuse of state resources to protect the kingship and bring back the Panchayati system of politics—all in the name of ‘following orders’. It is quite possible that the Supreme Court thought that Karki was just following orders of those running the government. Otherwise, there is no other ground to clear the way for his appointment. If this (following orders) was the grounds on which the decision was made, then this verdict will have long-term, adverse consequences. It can give freedom to people in the bureaucracy and army to commit crimes and violate human rights. Then, they could simply rationalise their actions by saying that they just ‘followed orders’ and that it is their ‘duty’ to follow the orders of decision-makers or the ruling people.

The bureaucracy is generally known as a machine for following the orders of decision-makers, i.e., politicians running the government. Accordingly, it is derogatively called ‘nokarshahitantra’ (in literal sense—the world of nokars or servants taking orders) in Nepal, especially by those people inclined to leftist politics. Despite this perception, bureaucrats are required to respect human values and become ethical in their actions. In any case, they are not to abdicate their will to make moral choices and are liable to be punished for any violation of human rights and crime against humanity.

On the other hand, the main task of the judiciary is to protect rights of individuals and punish those who violate human rights of various types. They are not to follow orders of any kind. But what was seen in Karki’s case is just the reverse. As per newspaper reporting, the judge deciding Karki’s case clearly indicated that there was pressure from ‘above’ to make a decision so that the path to his appointment by the Constitutional Council is cleared. This clearly means that the danger many legal experts predicted in mixing the ‘executive’ and the ‘judiciary’ through the appointment of the sitting Chief Justice as Prime Minister has begun to manifest. The judiciary no longer appears to be independent. It has become the shadow of the ‘executive’.

One certainly wonders as to why the main political leaders representing the government and the judiciary are hell bent on appointing Karki, despite the fact that there is no dearth of honest and good people who have the same status as Karki. In fact, there are two main purposes to their hard attempts to bring Karki in this position. First, it helps to establish the fact that people who commit crimes by ‘following orders’ are not to be punished. This has huge consequences, especially in protecting the Maoists and army personnel who committed human rights violations during the Maoist insurgency. Some sense of this was felt in the way the Truth and Reconciliation Ordinance was drafted and forwarded to the President for endorsement. Leaders of the

main political parties are in favour of granting amnesty to all crimes committed during the conflict period. It is only a few human rights activists who have voiced their concerns about the ordinance. International pressure has also led to revisions in the Ordinance. Accordingly, a new legal precedent or excuse is required to give mass amnesty as proposed initially in the Ordinance. Karki’s appointment will fulfill precisely this purpose.

The second reason behind appointing Karki is to find a person who, in principle, fulfills the wishes of the people in power or people who patronise him/her. From his work during the Panchayat period and afterwards, Karki has proved to be a person who can easily take extralegal steps and arrange logistics efficiently and in such a way that the interests of his ‘masters’ or ‘patrons’ are fulfilled. In carrying such assignments, he has easily gone beyond the limit of general ethics.  

As the CIAA was in the quota of the UCPN (Maoist) party, it is primarily responsible for Karki’s appointment. The UCPN (Maoist) needed a person exactly like Karki who can protect the interests of this party, which is heavily involved in corruption—whether it be in the Maoist cantonments or when it was in government. The UCPN (Maoist) found these characteristics in Karki. It certainly calculated his future utility in comparison to his immoral actions in the past. After all, this is a party that values the utilitarian approach. In this perspective, it is also equally intriguing as to why the leaders of other parties, especially the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN(UML), have not been publicly critical of Karki’s appointment. The main parties’ attitude in appointing Karki clearly shows that there could be dark deals for mutual benefits.

Karki’s appointment is one of the shoddiest deals that the political parties have made in recent times. The public certainly deserves an explanation for this appointment.

Posted on: 2013-05-06 08:34


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