KATHMANDU, June 21: When he met President Ram Baran Yadav on June 13, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai informed him that the government wanted to enact three laws concerning anti-money laundering, including a law on organized crime, and sought cooperation from Yadav, who was under pressure from the opposition not to sign any ordinance.
Bhattarai handed the drafts of the three ordinances right there and then for the president´s perusal.
So the president´s office was surprised Sunday when the prime minister´s office forwarded only two ordinances -- Extradition Ordinance and Mutual Cooperation Ordinance -- to the president for promulgation. The office asked Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire whether the third ordinance -- on Controlling Organized Crimes -- was left out by mistake. The office was told that it was dropped.
The ordinance dropped at the last minute was long sought by law enforcement agencies as it was believed it would help contain organized crime. A draft of the ordinance had already been distributed to cabinet members a day before their meeting, according to a minister.
Cabinet sources told Republica that the proposed law was dropped as Maoist and Madhesi ministers feared that they themselves would feel its full force if enacted.
"The prime minister proposed to us at Sunday´s cabinet not to discuss the draft although it was on the agenda along with the other ordinances," said the minister, preferring anonymity.
When the minister pressed for the law, the prime minister said he did not want to pass it now. Madhesi ministers supported him. Senior officials at the Prime Minister´s Office and the Home Ministry had advised the prime minister to get the proposed law endorsed by the cabinet.
Senior officials said the law would have prevented political parties from seeking forcible donations from businessmen. The law would also consider any forcible obstruction of people´s movement a criminal act. This would have an immediate effect on any strike enforced by political parties.
Similarly, the proposed ordinance says vandalising private property would be considered organized crime. The minister said this provision would have impacted political parties that resort to vandalizing vehicles during their strikes. The proposed ordinance says those vandalizing private properties would have to pay compensation.
The ruling Maoist and Madhesi parties became equally concerned over a provision that criminalizes the activities of goons and thugs. Political leaders face allegations of using thugs and goons. Under the ordinance, any support to such elements would be a crime subject to up to three years in jail and Rs 200,000 in fines.
However, Maoist Minister Post Bahadur Bogati claims that the cabinet dropped the ordinance because it had not been discussed with other parties.
´The fact is there was no consensus on this ordinance. It was not good to pass it without having the opposition on board," said Bogati.
When it was pointed out that the opposition had also not agreed to the two ordinances that were approved, Bogati said, "They were normal."
When drafts of the proposed laws were discussed in the Bills Committee of the Constituent Assembly, the Maoist and Madhesi parties had opposed them, according to Chandra Dev Joshi, chairman of the CPN (Samukta) and a member on the Bills Committee.
Police officials said they disparately needed the law to control organize crime as existing law does not cover all organized crime.
"There are no specific laws against thugs and goons and new organized crime like Dhukuti do not come under any existing law," said a deputy inspector general of police preferring anonymity.
Officials, however, pointed out that the proposed laws may not be human rights-friendly, giving police powers to arrest persons on mere suspicion.