Dialogue on Good Governance & Justice
Organised by Administrative Court of Nepal
17 December 2010, Lalitpur
Ritu Raj Subedi
The Rising Nepal
Good governance has been a buzzword with
the advent of multiparty democracy some two decades ago. There
have been many efforts and initiatives to ensure good governance,
accountability and transparency. Donors poured considerable amounts
of their aids to root out corruption and make service delivery
more effective. However, in the absence of strong political commitment,
all these efforts could not yield desired outcome. Today the notion
of good governance has received even greater space in agenda of
donors, NGOs and civil society. The political parties that often
face rebuke from the public for their deliberative encroachment
upon the bureaucracy can in way ignore the concept pf good governance,
an imperative component of democracy and rule of law.
Maintaining good governance and delivering
justice during transition is challenging task because the state
mechanisms are weak and morale of law enforcing agency has plummeted
alarmingly. Since the nation's politics has not yet taken a
clear shape, it is difficult for bureaucracy to meet the soaring
expectorations of the people. It is only through clean and committed
bureaucracy and judiciary that good governance and justice could
be delivered. Against this background, the Office of Prime Minister
and Administrative Court jointly organised a seminar on 'Good
Governance and Justice' in Lalitpur on December 17, 2010 with
the participation of top government officials, media people,
civil society members and professionals from different domains
of life. It was eighth round of dialogue Administrative Court
of Nepal has organised in collaboration with FES-Nepal.
Divided into two sessions, the speakers and
participants candidly commented on the bureaucracy, judiciary
and politics, and sought their harmonious relations to deliver
justice in the post-conflict society. The function remained
useful and interesting as the top government officials came
forth to criticize the politicians and donors for the unmet
goals of good governance and bureaucratic reforms, which the
country has been pursuing for long time.
In his inaugural speech, Chief Justice Ram
Prasad Shrestha said that the performance of judiciary should
be prompt, clean, impartial, transparent and effective in order
to keep up its esteem and earn public trust.
"Judges should be equally honest and
competent to maintain good governance. If we fail to change
our working style and mindset, no any system can yield desired
outcome," he said. Shrestha calls for building ethical
culture to prevent and reduce corruption.
He also expressed his dissatisfaction over
the indifference of the government to implement the court's
directives relating to the matter of public interests
Administrative Court chairman Kashi Raj Dahal
said that the administration had challenge to maintain good
governance and deliver justice despite being under pressure
and political influence.
Dahal said that the interaction aimed at sharing
the views of experts on good governance and justice during transition.
Supreme Court Justice Khila Raj Regmi chaired
the first session.
Another SC Justice Kalyan Shrestha, presenting
his working paper, shed light on connection between justice
and development, called for investment in judiciary to make
it effective and transparent. "Economic development strengthens
judiciary but the state has invested only 0.5 per cent of its
GDP in the judiciary."
Quoting the findings of World Bank, he said
that when the capacity of law-enforcing agencies was enhanced,
the GDP grew by 4.5 per cent.
He noted that the dialogue between law and
development was very weak. "Therefore, dialogue between
them needs to be robust to promote rule of law and good governance."
Stating that there was tendency to bring change
by enacting law, he noted that good governance could not be
maintained just by enacting beautiful laws. There is the need
of building the capacity of law-enforcing agencies," he
"Democracy means empowering the people.
It is not enough to grant people with many rights. They must
have capacity to exercise their rights," he added.
The very tendency with the political parties
is that they become vocal for the implementation of court decisions
while in opposition but they ignored the judiciary as they return
to power, he added
Shrestha suggested for adopting partnership
concept during transition to ensure rule of diversity.
Calling for review of judiciary, he pointed
out the need to abolish unconstitutional laws and bring uniformity
in legal system.
"Law is a service document. The people
in the helm of judiciary must bear social responsibility. Their
decision-making capacity should not be influenced from outside,"
Journalist Bimal Gautam asked that why the
judiciary mulling 'force' to implement verdicts of the courts.
"Is the judiciary not independent? Is
there political interference?" he questioned.
Finance secretary Krishna Hari Baskota said
the court often issued rulings against the government, sending
negative message about it to the people.
"Has the government not played effective
role? Is there not positive works of the government? Why is
there tendency to present the government in negative light?"
Baskota volleyed many questions.
Stating that there was the need of setting
parameters as to what make the people happy and satisfied but
it was not wise to often spread pessimistic feelings.
He claimed some positive developments had
also taken place in economic sector. For example, the Finance
Ministry raised revenue almost more than target.
Former chief secretary Bimal Koirala said
that corruption rose, as there was not dialogue between the
state and the people.
"The people have little faith in the
government. They do not feel that the government belongs to
them. There is missing a 'glue' to connect between the people
and the government. The bureaucracy is not accountable to the
people. No one can work for the public within the 'unaccountable
framework' of the governance system," blasted the former
One journalist raised the question about the
appointment of politically aligned person in the post of the
temporary justice of the Supreme Court.
Another participant said that the courts should
consider their capacity to implement their decisions. "The
courts must give due attention to their managing resources and
building capacity to enforce their verdicts," he added.
Secretary Tana Gautam said the bureaucracy
needed to demonstrate will power to work for the broader interest
of the people and the nation.
Advisor to Constituent Assembly Tek Prasad
Dhungana said that the SC unnecessarily made the Parliament
Secretariat as defendant while issuing a show cause to the writ
relating to lawmakers and CA.
In his reply, Shrestha said that the court
needed resources and said that political elements were involved
in the judicial review. "Politics and judiciary often come
in conflict so there is the need of interaction and compromise
In responding to the concern of Baskota, he
admitted that negative mindset remained high. He said that the
SC sometimes became handicapped in issuing the verdicts because
there were not needed regulations and laws.
"For example, the interim statute has
mentioned right to employment but the related laws have not
yet been enacted," he added.
Chief Justice Shrestha acknowledged that it
was wrong on the part of SC to oversize the defendants while
issuing a show cause in a response to the writs of public concerns.
He noted that the SC was also the organ of
the government and, therefore, both should move shoulder to
In his concluding remarks, Regmi said that
independent judiciary had important role to ensure just rule
and good governance.
"However, the judiciary is facing the
crunch of human resources in executing justice effectively,"
he said and pointed out the need to locate the problems seen
in the implementation of the directive orders of the courts.
Regmi stressed that the government agencies
must be accountable to the public and win the trust of the people.
The government should be serious enough to implement the court
Former secretary Damodar Gautam chaired the
second session wherein former member of Public Service Commission
and administration expert Dr. Bhim Dev Bhatta and Secretary
at the Office of Prime Minister Lila Mani Poudel presented their
As a key speaker, Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire
said that transparency, regulation and accountability were prerequisite
to good governance and justice.
Ghimire said that the government should develop
performance-based system in the bureaucracy.
"There has been tendency of making tall
promises by the politicians but they can be hardly fulfilled.
This trend must be over."
Stating that the history has now entrusted
bigger responsibility to the Nepalese bureaucracy, Ghimire asked
his colleagues to win the public's faith and exercise their
rights within the bound of laws.
In his paper 'The Role of Nepal's Administration
in the Context of Good Governance: Challenges and Reforms,'
Dr. Bhatta said that the idea of good governance imported to
Asian and African nations where poverty, corruption, scarcity
of food, internal strife and instability were pervasive.
Quoting 'Re-inventing Government' by David
Osborne and Ted Gaebler, he said, "Since the government
alone can't provide all services to the people, the idea of
public-private partnership should be initiated for the purpose.
There should be neither less governance nor more governance
but the good governance."
Dr. Bhatta draws 11 elements of good governance
- political stability, people's friendly bureaucracy, independent
judiciary, people's participation, transparency, sustainable
development, decentralization, rule of law, meeting of basic
needs, adoption of new technology, predictability and fair play.
According to him, the Nepalese administration
has at least five challenges to cope with. They are unmanaged
settlement, rising corruption, political interference, announcement
of federalism and globalization. In order to reform the administration,
it must be free from political interference, he said and added
that the government should identify the competent, honest and
capable employees and create the group of experts to appoint
He suggested for suspending trade unions during
transition; increasing the size of gazetted officers, abrogating
the provision of automatic promotion in civil service, checking
the growing brain drain, attracting new talents in administration,
making evaluation system scientific and bureaucracy accountable
to the service recipients.
"Public administration is a great establishing
force in society. This organ of state continues to operates
even if other constituents remain slow," he noted.
Lilamani Poudel's 'A Synopsis of Efforts for
Good Governance,' makes critical assessment of the activities
aimed at obtaining good governance in the country.
Poudel argued that political element had been
left out in the past programmes aimed at maintaining good governance.
"Until and unless the economic activities
of political parties in power are transparent and their elections
remain expensive; until the hypocrisy and extravaganza of property
amassed through hidden sources continue to receive social recognition,
no any attempt of good governance becomes effective and long-lasting,"
He claimed that the current agenda
of good governance was based on the donor-guided strategy that
only supports the neo-liberalism.
"The key challenge at the moment is to
implement the idea of good governance as per the social, political
and economic contexts of the nation by utilizing the indigenous
knowledge and skill. It should not be applied under the pressure
of donors, who impose many conditions in the garb of good governance,"
He pointed out the need of collaboration
among the government, civil society and private sector to root
"However, during the transition anarchy
and impunity have increased at alarming scale. The confidence
of law-enforcing agencies has dropped but moral of criminals
has gone up," he said.
The senior bureaucrat claimed that there was
nexus among the businesspersons, politicians, and criminals.
"Ending the state of impunity, corruption
in judiciary and police, and ensuring rule of law, transparency
and accountability in the selection, construction, accountancy
and quality of projects can be beginning points to maintain
good governance," he noted.
The participants enthusiastically engaged
in the discussion session. Many of them said that politics was
the focal point and the politicians needed to be clean and accountable
to the people. There was unanimous voice that political parties
and politicians should be pressed to create a corruption free
society. They put emphasis that the administration, security
agencies and judiciary should get rid of all sorts of anomalies.
One lawyer asked politicians to maintain accountability.
Political scientist Lal Babu Yadav said that existing political
and legal system was biased against the poor.
"A rich person is freed from police custody
on bail but a poor man must serve the prison for being unable
to pay the bail amount," Yadav said.
Yadav drew the attention of the experts to
the need of carving out the appropriate modality of the federalism.
"Our agenda of good governance should
not be guided by the donors' interests. The government should
also make its clear commitment to it," he said and added
that the tendency of passing the buck each other within among
the civil service agencies must be brought to an end.
Another participant questioned as to why the
bureaucracy was reluctant to implement the right to information,
which he said, was vital, to ensure transparency and accountability.
Finance secretary Baskota challenged Dr. Bhatta's opinion that
the politicians had interfered with the administration.
"We, bureaucrats, have been unable to
exercise our rights granted by the laws. We often ask the ministers
to use them. In many cases, it is wrong to blame the ministers
who rarely hamper the day to day activities of administration,"
He went on to claim that while making the
budget of fiscal year, no minister imposed his or her views
"I worked with many finance ministers
including Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai and Surendra
Pandey but they never interfered with me in course of budget
preparation and formulation," he said.
He proposed formulating code of conduct and
a core group of senior employees comprising secretary, CDO,
LDO, DFO and DEO, which should be assigned to implement the
code of conduct and take action on the employees involved in
corruption in the district.
In his response, Dr. Bhatta said that Nepal
should adopt federalism that suits it. Decentralization should
be the mantra of federalism, he added.
He said that transparency should be maintained
within the legal parameters. "When it comes to security
of the country, its sanative information should not be made
Dr. Bhatta suggested granting special rights
to chief secretary to do away with the aberrations in the administration.
Meanwhile, Lila Mani Poudel said that bureaucracy
must not shy away from implementing the regulations relating
to the Right to Information although the task is quite tough.
"We, bureaucrats, fail to execute many
works that we could do," he added.
In his concluding remarks, Damodar Gautam
said that good governance and justice were the two facets of
the same coin.
"Judiciary and administration have mutual
responsibility. Both should realize that they are organs of
the same state."
Recalling his meeting with late US diplomat
Richard Holbrook in an international seminar some years ago,
he said, "Holbrook whispered in my ear that Nepal is soon
going to be a failed state. This shocked me. But, as I returned
to Nepal, I did not see such a situation. I hold a conviction
that a country can be a failed state only if its central bank
prints two types of currency - real and fake or if the state
recruits phony police to make income or when the administration
and courts stop discharging their responsibility."
Gautam also blasted the leaders of trade unions,
who take the salary and perk of the government but spend their
times in party politics.
He is of the views that the state can never
be weak by giving rights to the citizens.
"The current situation emerged because
the rulers in the past denied the rights to the people,"
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org