Stage set for Deuba's release
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Stage set for Deuba's release

SC quashed a panel formed by the King that sent the ex-PM to prison.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 18:53 IST

In a major setback to Nepal King Gyanendra, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a royal act as unconstitutional and paved the way for the release of jailed former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

A special five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that a special investigation commission formed by Gyanendra that had sent Deuba to prison for corruption was unconstitutional.

The case had been dragging for nearly a year and had snowballed into a major controversy.

The court also ordered the controversial Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) to be disbanded from Monday and all the actions taken by it to be declared null and void.

Judges Kedar Prasad Giri, Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Ram Nagina Singh, Anup Raj Sharma and Ram Prasad Shrestha said the commission was unconstitutional since the government already has a watchdog, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

They said the commission was formed under emergency powers and should have been disbanded after the state of emergency ended in April last year.

However, the king gave it a fresh lease of life under another provision of the constitution, which was illegal.

The decision comes as a shot in the arm for Nepal's judiciary that has been at times accused of being muzzled.

"Truth has prevailed," said Dr Arju Deuba, wife of Deuba. "The judiciary has shown there is still rule of law in Nepal and I thank the court."

Deuba and former minister for physical planning and works Prakash Man Singh, who was also accused in the case, are expected to be released on Tuesday.

Along with them, a host of other bureaucrats and former ministers charged or sentenced by the controversial commission would also be free now.

This is the first major blow to Gyanendra, who had steamrolled opposition by the political parties and concern by the international community to implement his own "roadmap to democracy".

He went ahead with municipal elections on February 8, overriding boycott by most parties and a dismal voter turnout.

The royal commission was formed by Gyanendra last year after he seized power with the help of the army and sent opposition leaders to prison.

Almost within a fortnight of its formation, the RCCC began levelling corruption charges against Deuba and several ministers in the ousted cabinet.

Last July, it found Deuba and guilty of corruption in a million dollar drinking water supply project and slapped a two-year jail term on both as well as Nepali Rs 90 million ($1.2 million) fine on each.

The commission was criticised by the political parties, leading lawyers, human rights activists and civil society members as unconstitutional and conducting a political vendetta.

Deuba and Singh's imprisonment was condemned by the international community, including India and the US.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 18:39 IST