ANANTA RAJ LUITEL
KATHMANDU: The report of a Judicial Council panel, formed 10 years ago to investigate a corruption scandal involving a judge and a government attorney, reveals how a falling out between their wives led to their sacking.
In its report, the one-member panel of former Supreme Court Justice Krishna Jung Rayamajhi points that Swasthani, wife of Lalitpur District Court Judge Gopal Prasad Guragain, worked with Shobha, wife of Government Joint Attorney Lekhnath Paudel, to secure monetary benefits by settling the Lekman Maharjan v His Majesty’s Government case.
The judicial scandal, one of the most discussed graft cases after the promulgation of the 1990 Constitution, came to light when the wives could not agree on the amount to be shared for settling the murder case involving 17 people.
As per the recommendation of the panel, then King sacked the judge on the basis of JC’s suggestion. In keeping with a December 3, 1999 Cabinet decision, the government attorney’s office had moved the Lalitpur district court seeking its consent to withdraw the murder case against Maharjan.
The wives began to wield their power when the court delayed its decision.
At 1 pm on March 5, 2001, Shobha visited the judge’s house to hand over Rs 1.95 lakh and the judge’s wife Swasthani conveyed this information to the judge over the phone. The judge reached the house with junior staff and reported the matter to then Attorney General.
In her statement to the probe committee, Shobha claims that Swasthani had sought Rs 17 lakh to help the 17 accused. When Shobha could not collect the huge sum, the judge’s wife agreed to get the job done for Rs 10 lakh.
The report quotes Shobha as saying that the amount was meant to pay school fees of the judge’s kids and meet Swasthani’s petty bills expenses as it was a matter of supporting the ‘hapless detainees’.
“The case has been delayed just because of a protracted debate among the lawyers, but your work will be done,” Shobha quotes Swasthani as saying. According to Shobha, the judge’s wife also advised her to bribe junior staff to make them happy and ensure that the case gets settled before her husband’s transfer from the district court. In her statement, Shobha claims that the matter involves the two women and has nothing to do with her husband Lekhnath. “He is innocent. The judge hyped it unnecessarily,” she claims.
In her statement, Swasthani says Shobha had left the amount without her consent. “As my husband was not in favour of taking the bribe, I reported the matter to him immediately,” the report reads. The judge reported the matter to then AG. The AG moved the judiciary, which sacked Guragain and Poudel after a probe.