Nepal King's excess property may be nationalised
According to some MPs in Nepal, the Narayanhiti royal palace actually belongs to the state since the royal family had sold it twice.india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 11:07 IST
Faced with increasing suspicion and hostility by parliament for failing to give an account of the properties owned by the royal family, the Nepal government has promised to prepare the account in 10 days, after which King Gyanendra's excess property would be nationalised.
Land Reforms and Management Minister Prabhu Narayan Chaudhary was taken to task Friday by a committee of MPs - the Natural Means and Resources Committee - for not being able to provide full details about the assets of the royal couple and their close relatives, a delay that is hindering parliament from assessing the amount of income tax the royal family would have to pay, now that their tax exemption has been scrapped.
Chaudhari assured the MPs that since the king too falls under the regulations that put a ceiling on the amount of land an individual can own, the excess land would be nationalised.
So far, the government has been able to get some information on the palace properties in only seven of the 75 districts of Nepal and there is scepticism that there is more in these seven areas held under other people's names.
According to the ministry's report, the palace has 34,000 ropani of land, meaning over 186 million sq ft.
While the bulk of it is in King Gyanendra's name, there is also substantial amount of land in the names of Queen Komal, the Queen Mother, Ratna, a sister of the king, and his nieces.
Surprisingly, while there is a record of land owned by the royal couple's daughter, Princess Prerana, the government has not been able to unearth records of land owned by Crown Prince Paras or his wife, Crown Princess Himani.
The government has also not been able to clear the mystery about the royal palace in the capital.
According to some MPs, the Narayanhiti royal palace actually belongs to the state since the royal family had sold it twice.
The report has also not been able to touch the businesses, including hotels and tea gardens, owned by the royal family.
The exclusion made the parliamentary team issue specific instructions to the government to look into the tea gardens owned by the king.
There is also a veil of secrecy over the property owned by the late king Birendra, who was killed in a shootout in the palace, his queen and their three children, all of whom perished in the massacre.
It is popularly believed that the five dead royals' properties passed on to King Gyanendra.
In 2002, after the king began controlling the government by appointing a series of nominated prime ministers, the opposition parties, who are now in the government, had repeatedly demanded that the late king's property details be made public. However, the royalist governments ignored the call.
During its 238-year-old rule, Nepal's Shah dynasty of kings had never felt the pinch of paying income tax or being accountable for their deeds.
However, things changed dramatically this year after a public uprising against King Gyanendra's direct rule forced him to relinquish power.
Since the royal ouster in April, Nepal's parliament has been issuing a series of proclamations, curtailing the power, purse and privileges of the palace.
Nepal's royals could be in for even worse times next year as the government plans to hold an election when people would be asked if they want Nepal to remain a kingdom or become a republic.
With public anger against the royals rising since King Gyanendra's ascension, there is a possibility that from an all-powerful monarch once revered as an incarnation of god, the king could become a tax-paying commoner liable to be prosecuted for misdeeds.