Disputes galore over jurisdiction of federal and local governments
- In a recent case, municipalities of the Valley have demanded scrapping of Kathmandu Valley Development Authority
May 13, 2019-
The row between federal and local governments has resurfaced after the municipalities in Kathmandu Valley banded together, alleging that the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority breached the jurisdiction of local governments.
Since the three tiers of elections were held in 2017, there have been frequent clashes over jurisdiction between the federal and provincial governments as well as the federal and local level governments.
A joint demand of the Valley Municipality Forum, a grouping of all 18 municipalities in the Valley, has once again brought to the fore the challenges that entail implementation of federalism.
This latest joint initiative by the municipalities of the Valley has come at a time when local governments have been protesting against the federal government’s effort to continue its authority of appointing teachers at secondary schools and mobilisation of teachers by setting up separate units of the Education Ministry in districts.
Organising a press meet on Wednesday, the forum demanded that the authority, formed in 2012 to prepare and implement an integrated physical development plan for Kathmandu Valley, be scrapped.
Road widening works in the Valley, land development through a land pooling mechanism and preservation of public lands are some of the tasks the authority has been carrying out.
But these are the tasks which are also executed by local governments.
Officials of the municipalities in the Valley say that the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority Act and Local Level Operation Act are contradictory, and that the elected bodies should have their say in such works and not the authority.
“The authority has been intervening even in matters of local jurisdictions guaranteed by the constitution,” said Madan Sundar Shrestha, mayor of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality, who is also the secretary of the Valley Municipality Forum.
The local governments in the Valley were enraged after the authority filed a case at the Supreme Court against the Kathmandu Metropolitan City three months ago, stating that the country’s largest metropolis had prepared separate standards for building construction, going against the standards set by the authority.
The authority claims that the local government’s non-compliance with the standards set by the centre is against the constitution. It is of the view that the Valley’s local units are constitutionally bound to follow the Standards on Settlement Development, Urban Planning and Building Construction approved by the Cabinet.
Bhaikaji Tiwari, the commissioner at the authority, said that they went to the court after the Kathmandu Metropolitan City did not follow the centre’s standards for building construction despite repeated requests.
“As it is the constitutional issue, we went to the Supreme Court,” he told the Post.
Although the authority had sought an interim order, the court only issued a show-cause notice in the name of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Officials at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City maintain that the metropolis has largely followed the standards set by the authority with “some tweaks” as per the local needs. Some changes were made through a decision of the municipal assembly, a body of elected representatives from the Valley.
“We made some adjustment regarding the provisions of tall buildings,” said Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for the city. “The authority was against allowing building taller than five stories despite enough space to construct such buildings.”
As per the standards set by the authority, no building can have more than five stories at protected areas and mixed old settlements. But the metropolis has allowed constructing seven- storey buildings in the protected areas and eight-storey buildings in mixed old settlements.
Elected representatives of the local governments in the Valley have taken exception to the instruction issued by Tiwari, who is a political appointee of the government, to Kathmandu Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya.
“The authority sought to undermine the elected representatives,” said Shrestha, the mayor of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality.
However, officials at the authority argue that they have the power to ask local governments to follow the standards set by the federal government.
Local governments in the Valley have also pointed out other examples of intervention from the authority, which prompted them to demand that the authority be scrapped altogether.
One example of intervention from the authority is removal of Mayor Shrestha from the management sub-committee for the development of Rs 1.5 billion Kamerotar Land Pooling Project.
“As per the rules prepared by the authority, the sub-committee should be headed by the municipal chief, but I was removed from the post last year,” Shrestha said, adding that he was reinstated after the municipal assembly strongly protested his expulsion.
Tiwari, the commissioner of the authority, said that they had no option than to remove Shrestha after he continuously remained absent meetings of the sub-committee.
Shrestha has also blamed the authority for issuing planning permits to Bhatbhateni Super Market to construct a 17-storey building at Radheradhe area. He claims that Bhatbhateni built its building complex without even taking construction permit from the municipality.
“We have not issued the completion certificate to Bhatbhateni. We had given it the construction permit for a five-storey building,” Shrestha said.
The authority say that the planning permit is not a permit to construct building, but a recognition whether such a building could be built based on space, road and other facilities.
“If it has not taken construction permit, it is within the jurisdiction of the municipality to take action,” Tiwari said.
Madhyapur Thimi Mayor Shrestha has also accused the authority of undermining the municipality’s decision to expand a road at Bode area to 11 metres from six metres.
“After our decision, the authority built a wall by maintaining a six-meter width,” he claimed.
The confrontation between the authority and municipalities of Kathmandu Valley is the latest manifestation of long-running conflict over jurisdiction between the federal and local governments.
Last month, after the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development, under the Ministry of Education, asked its subordinate offices in districts to hire contract teachers to fill the positions vacated by temporary teachers who had failed the test for permanent posting, local governments had strongly protested the move.
The Municipal Association of Nepal and National Association of Rural Municipalities in Nepal, the umbrella bodies of local governments, had said in a statement that the central government’s move breached the jurisdiction of local governments, as secondary education falls completely under the jurisdiction of local governments as per the constitution.
“The federal government taking the role in promotion and transfer of high school teachers is against the spirit of the constitution,” said Chiribabu Maharjan, the mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City, told the Post.
The Education Development and Coordination Unit, under the Centre for Education and Human Resources Development, had also sent its staff to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City to mobilise teachers.
“We have our own education coordination committee headed by the mayor which is responsible for mobilisation of teachers,” said Dangol, the spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
In the past, the federal and local governments clashed over taxation.
In the early months after the local elections were held, the federal government refused to let the local governments raise house rent tax, though it comes within the jurisdiction of local governments as per Schedule 8 of the constitution.
Despite house rent tax coming under the local government’s jurisdiction, the federal government didn’t want to relinquish this tax interpreting it as income tax citing the Income Tax Act.
According to the constitution, income tax comes under the federal government’s jurisdiction.
This forced many landowners to pay double taxes. Amid strong protests from the local governments, the federal government decided to relinquish the authority of charging house rent tax on April 23 last year by publishing a notice in the Nepal Gazette.
There was also open dispute on a number of taxation issues between the two sides after the local government raised a number of taxes which the federal government said was against the constitution and directed local governments to correct them.
Federal and local governments have also been at odds over the adjustment of civil servants at local levels.
A number of local governments have refused to accept the staff sent by the federal government, saying that they already have employees to do the job.
“We didn’t allow 22 employees to mark their attendance in our municipality as there were already employees working with us in the same capacity,” said Mayor Shrestha.
According to Kedar Paneru, joint secretary at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, they have limited number of civil servants rejected by the local government and they are working to find a way out.
Published: 14-05-2019 06:30