Lalita Niwas Land Grab: Leaders acquitted; employees found guilty


February 15, 2024


Lalita Niwas Land Grab: Leaders acquitted; employees found guilty

Land at the Lalita Niwas, Baluwatar in Kathmandu/File Photo for Representation

KATHMANDU: The Special Court, after a prolonged 23-day hearing, issued its verdict on Thursday, concluding that the Lalita Niwas complex land in Baluwatar rightfully belongs to the Government of Nepal.

The case, initiated four years ago, resulted in convictions for former secretaries Deep Basnyat and Chabiraj Panta, while former Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachchadar, Minister for Land Reforms Dambar Shrestha, Chandra Dev Joshi, and former Secretary Dinesh Hari Adhikari were acquitted.

Initiated in 2076 BS, the charges against 110 individuals led to imprisonment and fines, with an additional 65 people named as defendants for land confiscation.

The court’s decision to hold the accused accountable for embezzling government land comes four years after the case was filed by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

The Lalita Niwas land case also involves individuals labeled as “land mafia”, including Ram Kumar Subedi and Shobha Kanta Dhakal.

The roots of the controversy trace back to 2066/2067 BS when Madhav Kumar Nepal served as Nepal’s Prime Minister. Gachchadar and Shrestha were part of the government then.

In 2069 BS, during Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s tenure as Prime Minister, Joshi served as the Land Reform Minister.

The then Minister Gachchadar had proposed in the Cabinet to allow admission to government land by the land mafia.

Minister of Land Reforms, Shrestha, submitted a written opinion to the Council of Ministers, endorsing the idea.

Based on this, the Cabinet meeting chaired by Madhav Nepal decided to implement the proposal.

The then Physical Planning Secretary, Dip Bahadur Basnyat, along with Land Reforms Secretary Chhabiraj Panta and Dinesh Hari Adhikari, handled the file, receiving comments from the ministry.

However, while political leaders were exonerated in this case, the secretaries faced consequences.

Thursday’s decision was given after continuous hearings spanning from January 16 to February 13 with 175 defendants, including prominent figures like Gachchdhar, Bhatbhateni Supermarket owner Min Bahadur Gurung, and former ministers Chandra Dev Joshi and Dambar Shrestha.

Among the accused, 110 individuals have already been sentenced, while 65 face charges solely related to land confiscation.

The case originated from a filing by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on February 5, 2020.

The CIAA alleged corruption involving the misappropriation of over 136 ropani of government land at Lalita Niwas in Baluwatar.

The main protagonists in the charge sheet, including Ram Kumar Subedi, Sobhakanta Dhakal, and Min Bahadur Gurung, are said to be the masterminds and middlemen behind the corruption scheme.

Former Prime Ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai provided statements in the case, but the CIAA declined to prosecute, citing a lack of jurisdiction.

A pending writ against this decision awaits resolution in the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, revelations about the transfer of government land into the names of Supreme Court Judge Kumar Regmi and UML Vice Chairman Bishnu Paudel’s son added complexity to the case.

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