Nepali Times

Supreme Court verdict on surrogacy

Sunday, November 27th, 2016
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Infertile Nepali couples now have a reason to cheer as the Supreme Court (SC) this week paved the way for surrogate pregnancies.

Married Nepali couples unable to have children can now practice altruistic surrogacy in the country once laws governing it are formulated, the Supreme Court ruled.

The couples seeking surrogacy will need to have proven medical records of infertility while the surrogate mothers should be married with at least one child and take their husband’s consent for it. A surrogate mother is not allowed to deliver babies more than once.

Delivering its final verdict on the writ petition filed to ban commercial surrogacy in Nepal, the SC came up with an option of altruistic surrogacy, and completely banning commercial surrogacy in Nepal.

One of the writ petitioners Advocate Prabin Pandhak says: “We need to have proper guidelines even to allow altruistic surrogacy. There might be legal complications there are no laws to follow up.”

She adds that the future of altruistic surrogacy will also be dark if the Ministry of Health and Population doesn’t come up with strict laws. The government had allowed foreign couples to seek commercial surrogacy in Nepal in 2014, but legal loopholes led to its ban.

Nepal emerged as a hub for commercial surrogacy after India prevented gay men and couples who had been married for less than two years from opting for surrogacy in 2013. The country is now preparing to ban commercial surrogacy for all foreign couples.

Shreejana Shrestha


Big leap for Sajha

Sunday, November 27th, 2016
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Pics: Bikram Rai

Pics: Bikram Rai

Like any other day Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal reached Singha Darbar at 10AM, only on Sunday morning he rode a Sajha bus from Pulchok to get there.

He was on one of the 30 brand new Sajha buses that he inaugurated. Accompanied by other government officials, the PM made the short journey after a brief ceremony held in Sajha Yatayat’s base station in Pulchok.

“In the context of traffic and vehicle management there have been considerable improvements following stricter regulations but we should not be satisfied with just this much. Sajha’s work and future plans are commendable but we still have a long way to cover,” said Dahal.

Keeping in mind Kathmandu’s worsening traffic congestion and air pollution, the buses have been launched in tandem with the slogan Chaudai sadak ma thulo bus (Big buses on wide streets). Aiming to steer commuters away from using private vehicles, the buses will be plying on trunk routes in Kathmandu Valley with increased frequency.

With more than 50 years of history, Sajha’s efforts to introduce a safer, efficient public transportation are not new. Established in the early 1960s, the buses popularity reflected in songs like Sajha bus ma jo pani chadha chha by comedian Hari Bansha Acharya. However, the cooperative fell victim to political interference and institutional problems and had to shut down.

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“Public transportation should have the same priority as public health and public education. There needs to be political leadership in this sector as well,” said Kanak Mani Dixit, Chairman of Sajha Yatayat.

It was with this objective that Sajha Yatayat revived its services in 2013 with 16 buses amidst much fanfare. The 30 new buses launched on Sunday morning come in a 2 x 2 seating arrangement with PVC modular seats offering more space to commuters. The buses are also disabled friendly, and the buses have been modified with a mechanical ramp for wheelchairs.

However, Dixit still believes correct infrastructure like footpaths, which needs to be raised to 1.5 feet to enable smoother commuting for the disabled, need to be in place.

Believing that there needs to be connectivity not only within Kathmandu but between other district and the capital, the KMC plans to invest Rs 50 million additionally in Sajha.

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“The KMC in keeping with the concept of a smart city wants to further smart traffic management as well,” said Rudra Singh Tamang of KMC. The government also plans to introduce a line of state run buses in the near future.

Smriti Basnet


Dahal in a tight spot

Thursday, November 24th, 2016
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PM Dahal holds a meeting with NC and Madhesi leaders on Wednesday. Pic: Bikram Rai

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is in a tight spot as the country marks the tenth anniversary of the peace accord this week. He is preparing to table the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament in the next few days, but no one seems to be on his side.

He assured the Madhesi parties he would deliver this time, but they are not satisfied with his compromise. The UML, the second largest party in parliament, has told him point blank it will not support the bill. His coalition partner, the Nepali Congress, is letting him stew.

But Dahal is putting on a brave face. He told Nepali Times this week he doesn’t feel burdened by his work. A self-proclaimed risk-taker, Dahal may be tempted to take a political gamble since it is a make-or-break for his career. He may go ahead and register the bill, and pass the blame on to the UML and NC.

Maoist-Centre politburo member Bodh Raj Upadhyay says: “The Chairman has lost his charisma, the cadres are frustrated and our party is on the verge of collapse. He needs to make a bold move and quick. If he succeeds, it will revive our party and his own political career.”

Dahal is trying to make the constitution ‘broadly acceptable’ by pushing four amendments: tinkering with federal boundaries, easing restrictions on the rights of naturalised citizens, ensuring proportional representation in parliament and recognising more official languages.

But the UML is opposed to Dahal’s proposal, saying it is not in the interest of Nepalis, and is directed by a foreign hand. The Federal Alliance has rejected the amendment bill, and even the Madhesi Front is luke warm, fearing a backlash from its plains constituency.

The NC is backing Dahal, but its President Sher Bahadur Deuba may want this deal to fail so he gets the credit for resolving the constitutional impasse when he takes his turn to be prime minister in May. If Dahal fails and the political crisis deepens, Deuba could have his chance even earlier.

Om Astha Rai

 


Interview: Chief Justice Karki

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
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Pic: Shahidul Alam

From the Nepali Press

Chief Justice Sushila Karki in an interview with Binita Dahal of BBC Nepali, 22 November 

BBC Nepali: How difficult was your journey to the post of Chief Justice? 

Sushila Karki: In the legal profession you do not have a godfather. You have to have an in-built capacity to excel in this field. I was chosen as a Supreme Court justice because I had served as an advocate for 31 years, and there were only a few women in this field.

How challenging was it for a woman to study law in Nepal 40 years ago? 

Only a couple of women were studying law at that time, and they were all in Kathmandu. I was lucky because my family was liberal-minded and never discriminated against daughters. My father initially wanted me to be a doctor, but later encouraged me to study law. I began practicing law in Biratnagar.

What is the current status of women in Nepal?

They are still left behind, more so in rural areas. The state and the society must be responsible to uplift the status of women.

You once talked about an unpleasant experience as a woman justice among male colleagues in the Supreme Court. 

Our society is still unwilling to tolerate the progress that women make, and does not believe that a woman can hold a top post. I worked with several Chief Justices, and some of them treated me like a token female. They thought I was handpicked only because I was a woman, and to fill the gender quota in the judiciary. They did not forward important cases to my bench. Luckily, there were other Chief Justices who were better.

What are you doing to end discrimination against women in the justice system? 

As Nepal’s first female Chief Justice, I am working hard to prove that a woman can be as capable as a man. Forwarding cases to justices and fixing dates for them is a vital function of any court. Since I became Chief Justice, the SC has been clearing a backlog of cases by fixing timings from 10 AM onwards. Some of my predecessors used to forward cases only in the afternoon.

Some say you believe in positive discrimination and prefer a woman to a man if both are equally capable. Is it true? 

I have not chosen a less qualified woman instead of a qualified man. However, I believe that women should be given a fair chance; it should be a level playing field.

Does this translate into leniency towards women in verdicts? 

No. But if a woman is constantly tortured by her husband and she kills him, we should also take into account her suffering while passing a sentence on her. Can that be really called favoritism towards women?

Why are you advocating for free legal service for victims of gender-based violence?

Women are shy about fighting for justice because of family pressure, lengthy legal process and expensive fees of advocates. More women will be encouraged to fight for justice if they do not have to pay.

You recently said you preferred to promote professionalism of women rather than their proportional representation. Why? 

We hear grievances in the Tarai that Madhesi women are backward because the state has not ensured their proportional representation. Ensuring women’s proportional representation in politics or other fields is an issue, but in the judiciary a woman has to be competent. What is the point of demanding proportional representation of Muslim women if they face cultural barriers in the home, are forced to wear veils, are married off early and not given proper education?

Your husband once said in an interview that you are the breadwinner of the family and he just does household chores. Is your family matriarchal? 

My husband always treats me as the head of the household. I earn and he takes care of the house. He raised our children. When I was practicing law and needed to study legal documents till late night, he used to make tea for me. I manage the money. My husband is like a hermit. He was never tempted to earn money. The clothes that he wears are his only property.

Most women want to marry rich and successful men. You married an idealistic politician. 

Yes, I was impressed by his ideals and honesty. I thought I could make a living by myself and did not need a husband who had a salary. Had I married someone else, it could have been different. If my husband had been greedy, liked to drink, or boast about power I would probably not be where I am today.

 


The tenth day

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016
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Pic: Gopen Rai

Dr Govinda KC’s tenth hunger strike reached its tenth day on Tuesday, but the government is yet to respond to his demands.

Dr KC’s health condition is deteriorating, and the solidarity for Dr KC alliance on Tuesday warned of protests to put pressure on the government to address his demands.

The Alliance has decided to picket the office of the Vice Chancellor of the Tribhuvan University on Wednesday. “If picketing does not yield positive results, there will be more intense protests,” said a statement issued by the Alliance.

Dr KC, an orthopedic surgeon at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, has repeatedly been on hunger strikes demanding reforms in the medical education sector. It was he who first demanded impeachment of the CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki, saying the head of the corruption watchdog was himself involved in corruption.

This time, Dr KC has demanded that the seniormost professor be appointed as the Dean of the Institute of Medicine (IoM). Just when he was about to go on his tenth hunger strike, the TU appointed Dr KP Singh as the IoM Dean.

Dr Singh is an old friend of Dr KC, who had always stood by the crusading physician till the ninth hunger strike. Dr KC says he launched his tenth hunger strike despite the appointment of his friend as the IoM Dean because Dr Singh was not the seniormost professor.

 

 

 


The surveillance state

Monday, November 21st, 2016
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From the Nepali Press

Rameshwar Bohara in Himal Khabarpatrika (20-26 November)

When 157 UML-Maoist MPs registered an impeachment motion against the CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki in October, they accused him of abusing his authority and committing crimes against the state.

One of the nine charges against Karki is that he unlawfully snooped on political leaders and security chiefs by collecting their call details and tapping their phone calls.

Phone tapping is illegal, and even police are not authorised to intercept calls even though the Narcotics (Control) Act 1976 and the Prevention of Organized Crime Act 2013 allow them to do it during the investigation of certain cases.

How did Karki gather the wherewithal and the authorisation to listen in to the phones of politicians, businessmen, journalists, lawyers and civil society activists? Parliament could investigate this, but hasn’t.

However, after Karki’s suspension government agencies and security officials who were earlier afraid of him are now spilling the beans. They are giving details of the elaborate surveillance network that used to be directed by Karki from his headquarters in Tangal.

It was standard practice for the Home Ministry to second 100 selected policemen to duties at the CIAA. But after Karki’s appointment he started to personally handpick senior officers and policemen for positions at the CIAA. He prepared his list of 250 personnel, got it endorsed by the Home Ministry and inducted them into the CIAA headquarters turning it into a barrack.

Shortly after becoming the CIAA Chief, Karki used an inspector to spy on the publisher of an influential newspaper. But the inspector refused and somehow managed to get transferred out of the CIAA. Since then, Karki started working only with policemen he trusted and personally picked.

Karki sought budget from the Ministry of Finance to set up a state-of-the-art surveillance system, and chose police officers with training in electronic surveillance.

“The fact that he chose the best of our surveillance officers shows that Karki was up to something sinister,” said a police AIG. “There is enough evidence that he intercepted calls of leaders, but what we do not know for sure is whether he did it from his own office or through telecommunication companies.”

Police are allowed to rely on telecommunication companies to trace calls, SMS and geo-locate suspects in criminal investigations. But the constitutional provision on the right to privacy does not allow them to intercept and tap phone calls.

There is speculation that some diplomatic missions in Kathmandu have their own equipment to intercept calls without relying on or informing telecommunications companies. The mysterious release in 2013 of an audiotape in which a man alleged to be Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara was heard requesting a Chinese businessman for Rs 500 million fuelled speculation that phone calls are being tapped in Nepal. The installation of such a system is very expensive, and can cost up to Rs 60 million. “But for Karki, that was not an impossible amount,” said one police officer.

The CIAA Act 1991 does not allow the anti-graft body to tap phone calls either, so if Karki was intercepting calls he was doing so clandestinely. Even without such equipment, he could have still arm-twisted telecommunication companies to record phone calls for him. For someone who was harassing the Prime Minister, ministers and MPs, that would not be so difficult.

Using surveillance as a tool of harassment is not new in Nepal. In 2001, after a state of emergency was declared former Chief Justice Biswanath Upadhyay confided with close friends that royal army spies were spying on him. But the use of surveillance for harassment, bargaining and personal interests increased after Karki became CIAA Chief. He even used plainclothes policemen to spy on Chief Justice Sushila Karki, forcing the Supreme Court administration to raise this issue with police headquarters.

In April, Nepal magazine had published a letter written by the National Investigation Department (NID) Chief Dilip Regmi to Karki informing him about a 406-page report containing personal and financial details of 42 politicians, 62 bureaucrats, 39 retired bureaucrats and 52 retired and servicing security officers. Regmi also mentioned in the letter that he had prepared the list under the personal instruction of Karki.

As more details emerged, the NID report on personal details of politicians and bureaucrats turned out to be just a tip of the iceberg. It was when political leaders learnt that they were being spied on and could be arrested on corruption charges any time that they felt the need to impeach Karki.

Senior advocate and Nepali Congress MP Radheshyam Adhikari says: “Phone tapping by the CIAA violates citizen’s constitutional rights to privacy.”

 


Cashless in India

Sunday, November 20th, 2016
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Des Kumari (left) with her husband and daughter holding their Indian State Bank cheque. All pics: Seulki Lee

SEULKI LEE in NEW DELHI

Nepalis working in India, students, pilgrims and Nepali patients at Indian hospitals have all been hit hard by the sudden demonetisation of Indian 500 and 1,000 rupee notes last week. Most Nepali workers and students here do not have bank accounts and therefore cannot deposit their old currency, patients and pilgrims who came to India with large denomination bills are in a fix.

Bhim Kumari Roka is from Arghakhanchi and has been living in India for seven years. She had INR 50,000 in Indian 500 rupee notes which she wanted to take home later this month. “We have to wait in line the whole day to exchange the notes and our turn never comes, I don’t think I can return to Nepal,” Roka says. She does not have a bank account, and is trying to see if she can deposit the money in her daughter’s account and withdraw the money in new notes. However, there is a limit to how much she can deposit there too.

Others like Padam Bahadur Malla who owns a garment shop at the Tibetan Refugee Market near Kashmir Gate doesn’t have a problem with currency exchange but has seen a huge drop in business because of the demonitisation.

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Padam Bahadur Malla“My customers are down by half because they can’t use old notes,” Malla said, “and even when they have new notes we cannot have change to give.”

Many Nepalis are depending on the goodwill of their Indian friends, colleagues or neighbours, but the Indians have problems themselves and cannot help even if they want to.

Some like Viki Shrestha from Butwal works in a momo shop in Okhla and doesn’t have any problems with demonetisation because he never had notes more than INR 100, since his customers all use the smallest units of currency.

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Viki Shrestha

Nepalis like Des Kumari of Tekhand neighbourhood who have husbands here with Adar Cards or bank account do not have problem with demonetisation. “Our only problem is that we have to stand in line for a long time and there is limit to how much we can deposit,” she explains.

Mina Devi is from Nawalparasi and moved to New Delhi to be with her son who works in a factory in the industrial suburb of Okhla. “I have about 5,000 rupees in the old notes and I don’t know how to change it, my son is trying to get it changed but he cannot wait in line because he has to go to work,” she says. “There are lots of Nepalis here who are really worried.”

Dina Nath Aryal is originally from Gulmi and has been working in New Delhi for the past 14 years. “Why should I talk to a Nepali newspaper, how can you help me?” he asks. “Rich people can change any amount of money they want, but us poor families in India and Nepal with the old currency notes are in real trouble. The bank doesn’t have enough new notes to give us.”

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Dina Nath is better off than most of his Nepali neighbours who do not have bank accounts or ration cards. He has deposited all his spare 500 and 1,000 notes in his bank account, and the only inconvenience is that there is a limit of how much he can withdraw in new currency notes. “We have to wait in line from 4AM all day, and cannot go to work, how can we live like this. The Nepal government should talk to the Indian government and sort this out for us.”

 


 

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