Representatives of provincial governments say that the powers exercised by chief district officers in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent ordinance that gave policing power in the three districts of Kathmandu valley — Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur — to Nepal police are against the spirit of federalism.

Minister of Internal Affairs and Law of Bagmati Province Shalikram Jamakattel told THT that the government’s decision to bring ordinance giving policing powers, including the power to investigate crimes in the three districts of Kathmandu valley to Nepal Police, violated the constitution.

“The constitution stipulates that the provinces have jurisdiction over provincial police administration, peace and order, but this ordinance seeks to interfere with provincial powers,” Jamakattel said.

He further said that 13 districts, including Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur were under Bagmati province’s jurisdiction and hence the central government’s decision to bring the policing of these three districts under the jurisdiction of Nepal Police was wrong.

Nepal Police is under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

“I am raising this issue because I was associated with a political force that raised the issue of federalism. Today I am the Minister of Internal Affairs and Law of Bagmati Province and I might not be a minister tomorrow, but the autonomy of provinces and federalism should not be curtailed,” he argued.

He said that in India, the Police administration in New Delhi, the capital of India, was being handled by the federal government but there was clear legal provision for the same.

“In our constitution, there is no provision that supports the federal government’s move to bring policing of Kathmandu valley under the federal government,” he said.

Chief Attorney of Gandaki Province Rajendra Ghimire also echoed Jamakattel.

“There is no provision in the constitution or laws that give power to the federal government to bring policing of the three districts under the purview of Nepal Police,” he argued.

Jamakattel said there was no provision for having CDOs in the constitution, yet CDOs were functioning at the behest of the federal government.

“In the order of precedence, CDOs are ranked lower to the chiefs of local levels, but in practice, chiefs of local levels cannot do anything without the consent of CDOs. The situation is such that even chief ministers have to seek the consent of CDOs for certain things,”

Jamakattel said and added that recently the CDOs had bypassed the provincial government when they declared prohibitory orders.

Ghimire said that in the absence of new laws to govern the functions, duties and powers of chief district officers, CDOs were exercising power under the old laws. He said CDOs should be made accountable to the federal government only for a few issues such as citizenship, passport and international boundaries that are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, but for all other issues the CDOs must be accountable to the provincial government.

Minister Jamakattel said service units could be created in all local levels to provide citizenship and passport services and the judicial powers exercised by CDOs could be handed over to the judicial committees of the local levels. “If we can do this, there will be no relevance of CDOs,” he added.

Jamakattel said that Bagmati province would wait till the adjustment of Nepal Police and Provincial Police and if the issues raised by his province were not resolved, then his province would seek legal remedies.

Human rights lawyer Mohan Kumar Karna also said that in recent months, a large number of administrative decisions were taken by CDOs bypassing provincial governments. “Prohibitory orders were issued by the CDOs in several districts without seeking consent of or informing the provincial government. Such practices have curtailed provincial autonomy,” he argued.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on October 4, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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