भारतको फैसला ले नेपालको बिधुतिय कारोबार ऐन प्रभावित होला?

पहिलोपोस्ट डट कम मा केहि समय अघि छापिएको मेरो दोश्रो लेख. यो लेख नेपालीमा छ. पहिलोपोस्ट.कम मै पढ्ने भए यो लिंकमा क्लिक गर्नुहोला. यो लेखको पिडिएफ़ कपि यहा छ. _भारतको फैसलाले नेपालको विद्युतीय कारोबार ऐन प्रभावित होला_ __ Pahilopost. यो लेख भारतको सर्बोच्च अदालतले सुचना प्रबिधि सम्बन्धी कानुनमा गरेको एउटा फैसला र यसको नेपालमा हुनसक्ने प्रभाब को बारेमा छ. यो फैसलाले कुनै पनि सामाजिक संजालमा बिचार पोस्ट गरेकै आधारमा प्रहरीले पक्राउ गर्न सक्ने कानुनलाई खारेज गरेको छ र वाक/अभिब्यक्ती स्वतन्त्रता लाइ मजबुत गर्ने काम गरेको छ.

“मार्च २४ का दिन भारतको सर्वोच्च अदालतले महत्वपुर्ण फैसला गरेको छ अभिव्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रता सम्बन्धमा (On the topic of ‘freedom of speech and expression’)। श्रेया सिंघलले भारत सरकार विरुद्द सार्वजनिक महत्वको मुद्दा दायर गरेकी थिइन्। सर्वोच्चका दुई न्यायधिसको बेन्चले भारतको ‘सुचना तथा प्रविधि कानुन’को सेक्सन ६६ए लाई संविधानले ग्यारेन्टी गरेको ‘अभिव्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रता’को खिलाफ रहेको ठहर गर्दै असंवैधानिक ठहर गरेको छ।

यो फैसलालाई भारतमा ‘अभिव्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रता’का लागि काम गरिरहेका हरेकले अत्यन्त महत्वपुर्ण फैसला भन्दै स्वागत गरेका छन्।

सुचना तथा प्रविधि कानुन को सेक्सन ६६

सेक्सन ६६ ए अनुसार कुनै व्यक्तिले कम्प्युटर अथवा अन्य सूचना आदानप्रदान गर्न सकिने उपकरणको प्रयोग गरी कुनैपनि सूचना, चित्र, श्रव्य दृश्य वा ग्राफिक कन्टेन्ट आदि अर्को व्यक्तिलाई पठाएमा यो सेक्सनको तहत कारबाही हुन सक्थ्यो। कारबाही हुनसक्ने सूचना वा सन्देशहरू:

क) पूर्णतया आपत्तिजनक अथवा धम्कीयुक्त भएमा, वा
ख) त्यस्ता सूचनाहरु जुन गलत हुन् भन्ने थाहा हुँदाहुँदै अर्को पक्षलाई अनावश्यक झन्झट, असुविधा, खतरा, वाधा, अपमान, चोट, आपराधिक त्रास, दुश्मनी, घृणा वा द्वेष फैलाउने उद्देस्यले पठाएको पाइएमा, वा
ग) कुनै पनि विद्युतीय इमेल र सन्देशहरु अनावश्यक झन्झट र असुविधा उत्पन्न गर्नको लागि अथवा ढाट्ने र छक्याउने उद्देश्यले पठाइएको पाइएमा,

यो सेक्सनमा माथि उल्लेखित ‘अपराध’ गर्नेहरुलाई ३ वर्षसम्मको जेल सजाय र जरिवानाको व्यवसस्था गरिएको थियो।

यो कानुनी प्रावधान धार्मिक र जातिय द्वन्द्व बढाउने लेख र रचनाहरुको सम्प्रेषणमा रोक लगाउने उद्देश्यले ल्याइएको थियो। त्यस्तै आतंककारी र विध्वशात्मक उद्देश्यले गरिने प्रचार प्रसारमा पनि रोक लगाउने उद्देश्य यसको थियो। तर राम्रो विचारले मात्र कानुन राम्रो हुन नसक्ने पाठ घटनाक्रमहरुले देखाउँदै गएपछि यसका बारेमा गम्भीर कानुनी प्रश्नहरु पनि उठाउन थालियो।

कानुन दुरुपयोगका घटनाहरु

सत्तामा बस्नेहरुले जुन उद्देश्यले कानुन बनाइएको हो त्यसको मर्म र प्रस्तावनामा ध्यान दिएनन्। बरु त्यसको बदलामा सरकारका काम र कारबाही विरुद्द उठेका आवाज बन्द गर्न मनखुसी रुपमा कानुनको चरम दुरुपयोग भयो। बदलामा भारतको नागरिक समाजको यस कानुनप्रतिको शंका यथार्थमा बदलियो। केही उदाहरण :

१. भारतको मुम्बईमा बस्ने साहिन धादाले फेसबुकमा एउटा कमेन्ट लेखिन्। जसमा सिवासेनाका नेता बाल ठाकरेको निधनमा भएको मुम्बई बन्दको विरोध थियो। त्यसलाई उनकी साथी रेणु श्रीनिवासनले ‘लाइक’ गरिन्। दुवैलाई मुम्बई पुलिसले सेक्सन ६६ ए अन्तर्गत पक्राउ गर्‍यो।

२. पश्चिम बङ्गालमा रहेको ‘जादभपुर विश्वविद्यालय’ का प्रोफेसर अम्बिकेश महापात्रा फेसबुकमा पोस्ट गरेको राज्यकी मुख्यमन्त्री ममता बेनर्जीको कार्टुन चित्र सेयर गरेको आरोपमा पक्राउ परे।

यी र यस्तै दर्जन जति घटनाले सेक्सन ६६ ए को बारेमा संवैधानिक चुनौति पेश गर्‍यो र मुद्दा भारतको सर्वोच्च अदालतसम्म पुग्यो।

के भन्यो भारतको सर्वोच्च अदालतले?

चरम दुरुपयोग भएको कानुनी दफालाई अदालतले संवैधानिक प्रावधान विपरित भएको ठहर गरेको छ। अदालतले भनेको छ : उक्त कानुनी प्रावधानले प्रशासनलाई अत्यन्तै धेरै मनपरी र आवश्यकताभन्दा बढीको अधिकार प्रयोग गर्ने छुट दिएको हुँदा यस्तो प्रावधानले स्वतन्त्रताको अधिकारलाई हनन गर्ने मात्र नभई वाक स्वतन्त्रतामा लगाउन सकिने बन्देजहरुको हदलाई पनि पार गर्दछ।

अदालतले यो पनि भनेको छ की ‘वाक स्वतन्त्रता’ पूर्ण र असिमित हुन सक्दैन तर यसका दायरा र सिमितताहरु कानुनमा स्पस्ट रुपमा लेखिएको हुनुपर्दछ। तसर्थ यदि कुनै पनि कानुनले अभिव्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रताको दायरा खुम्च्याउने हो भने त्यो दायरा स्पस्ट रुपमा कानुन मै किटान हुनुपर्ने र त्यो दायरा संविधानको प्रावधान बाहिर गएर हुन नसक्ने दोहोर्‍याएको छ।

अर्को अर्थमा असिमित प्रशासनिक अधिकार दिइएको कानुनले नागरिकका स्वतन्त्रताहरु कुनै पनि बेला खोस्न सक्ने हुँदा त्यस्ता कानुनहरूले संवैधानिक वैधता नपाउने पनि निर्णयमा उल्लेख छ। कस्ता प्रकृतिका घटनाहरु मात्र उक्त कानुनी प्रावधानले समेट्ने हो प्रस्ट नभएको र उक्त प्रावधान ‘खुल्ला र असिमित’ भएकोले गर्दा पनि वैधता पाउन नसक्ने ठहर्छ।

तर यो निर्णयले एउटा महत्वपुर्ण पक्षलाई भने संवैधानिक नै ठहर्‍याएको छ – त्यो हो प्रक्रिया पुर्‍याएर ‘वेबसाइट ब्लक’ गर्ने प्रावधान र आईएसपी (Internet Service Provider) हरुलाई कुनै खास मुद्दामा दायित्वबाट उन्मुक्ति।

नेपालले के सिक्ने?

विगतमा नेपालमा पनि फेसबुकमा कमेन्ट लेखेकै कारणले प्रहरीले एकजना र  समाचार सेयर गरेको आरोपमा एकजना पत्रकार पक्राउ परेका थिए।  पक्राउ परेका व्यक्तिलाई ‘साइबर कानुन’को नाममा मुद्दा लगाइने भनिएको थियो।

नेपालको सन्दर्भमा ‘साइबर कानुन’ भन्नाले ‘विद्युतिय कारोबार ऐन, २०६३’ र यस कानुन अन्तर्गत बनेका नियम निर्देशिकालाई जनाउँछ। यो कानुनको मुख्य विवादमा रहेको दफा दफा ४७ हो। नेपाली कानुनको यो दफा भारतीय सूचना प्रविधि कानुनको सेक्सन ६६ ए सँग लगभग ठ्याक्क मिल्दो छ। भारतीय कानुनमा ३ वर्षको जेल सजायको व्यवस्था थियो भने नेपालको कानुनमा ५ वर्षको जेल सजायको प्रावधान राखिएको छ।

भारतीय कानुनलाई अवैधानिक र असंवैधानिक ठहर्‍याइएको परिप्रेक्षमा नेपालको कानुन पनि संवैधानिक दायरा भित्र रहेको देखिँदैन। ‘अभिव्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रता’को सवालमा नेपाल र भारतको संविधानमा खासै कुनै फरक रहेको पाइँदैन। तसर्थ आउँदा दिनहरुमा यदि नेपालको सर्वोच्च अदालतमा ‘विद्युतीय कारोबार ऐन, २०६३’ को दफा ४७ संवैधानिक दायरामा रहे नरहेको ‘टेस्ट’ गरिने हो भने यो दफा ‘फेल’ हुने निश्चित प्राय: छ।

भारतमा एक्काइस बर्षकी श्रेयाको मुद्दाले जुन परिवर्तन ल्याएको छ त्यसलाई आत्मसात गरेर कानुनी लडाइँ लड्न जागरुक नेपाली श्रेयाले अदालतको ढोका ढक्ढक्याउन सक्छन्। कानुनी राज्यमा जीत श्रेयाहरुको नै हुन्छ। यसो भएमा फेसबुकमा पोस्ट लेखेकै वा पोस्ट लाइक गरेकै आरोपमा प्रहरीले मनपरी रुपमा समात्न र मुद्दा चलाउन पाउने छैन।

(लेखक वकिल हुन्। उनलाई ट्विटरमा @rajibdahal मा र ईमेलमा rajib.dahal@gmail.com भेट्न सकिन्छ।)

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Nepal: (Un)Necessary – ‘doctrine of necessity’

My this article below is published in Telegraph Nepal today. You can read it from here:

http://www.telegraphnepal.com/views/2011-09-21/nepal:-unnecessary-doctrine-of-necessity.html

THE term ‘doctrine of necessity’ has found an unwarranted place in Nepalese legal development despite not having any acceptable legacy behind it. The doctrine itself has a very dubious purpose to serve and the outcome of application of this doctrine would be debated for a long time. The doctrine, in its simple understanding, is a validating tool for those illegal, extra-legal, and invalid administrative state actions and these actions get validity from one’s understanding of necessity, mostly based on his/their momentary understanding of what was the necessity of that time. Therefore, there would be divergence in views even among the legal luminaries. One’s view of what was necessary at a time can always be contested by other set of legal luminaries.

Therefore, in this article, my effort has been to make a jurisprudential fathoming of legacy that ‘doctrine of necessity’ inherits and to examine whether we have acted judiciously to patronize this doctrine in Nepalese legal development.

The doctrine helps to bestow legality on any extra-legal actions if such actions are found to be to restore legal orders and if, at the give point of time, the state machineries would have no alternative viable recourse available. Therefore, most often, the courts have given breath to this principle when constitutional validities of states are to be upheld even when such state actions sans constitutionally permitted limits.

The credit for giving birth to this principle goes initially to the medieval jurist Henry de Bracton (c.1210-1268), and later, justification of the doctrine has been advanced by another great authority, William Blackstone. The legal maxim that has been credited to Bracton goes like this: “……………that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity…………………”

The constitutional lawyers should be troubled in Nepal as the doctrine seems to be gaining unshakable ground to justify diverse extra-legal state actions. In a judgement delivered in April 2010, the Supreme Court of Nepal, in a matter relating to parliamentary hearings for appointment in constitutional bodies, had opined that all the articles of Interim Constitution of Nepal can be amended as per the doctrine of necessity except those relating to democratic republic, human rights and an independent judiciary. The reasoning though may sound to be a political victory for the supremacy of parliament; it comes with the imminent danger of having serious implications in the future.

Once again, the discourse on this doctrine has gained momentum since the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Nepal has invoked this principle in another verdict while upholding the extension of tenure of Constituent Assembly (CA). The court cited and applied the doctrine to uphold the Ninth Amendment of the Interim Constitution of Nepal. The court verdict has, therefore, upheld the extension of the tenure of the CA by three more months on May 28, 2011. The Supreme Court reasoned that the objective of CA was to draft and to promulgate a new constitution and to conclude the peace process and that has not been achieved yet. Therefore, the doctrine has to be applied to uphold the actions taken by CA when the twin tasks are yet to be performed, reasoned the Apex Court.

A brief overview to world history shows that the Chief Justice Mohammad Munir of Pakistan had invoked the doctrine to validate the actions of Governor General Ghulam Mohammad who had dismissed the Constituent Assembly and appointed a Council of Ministers in 1954. While putting breath in the doctrine in modern times, Justice Munir in Pakistan in 1954 relied on Bracton’s maxim ‘that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity’, and on the Roman law maxim urged by Jennings, ‘the well-being of the people is the supreme law’.

In countries like Nigeria and in Fiji, this doctrine were invoked and applied whenever the state had acted against the constitution. There were striking similarities in all these states at the time when the doctrine was invoked – dysfunctional parliamentary democracy. Therefore, this will inevitably leads us to the question – whether doctrine of necessity is a necessary doctrine when there is a breakdown of parliamentary democracy.

In the instant case, another immediate question that needs to ponder is how long the doctrine of necessity can save the functioning of CA or any such extra – legal actions of state actors in the future. Dealing with the issue vis – a – vis functioning of CA, what if, the CA fails to perform its functioning of promulgation of new constitution but based on this doctrine; it keeps on extending its term for another dozen times. By adopting this doctrine by highest judiciary of the country, we have placed ourselves in a very precarious situation where CA may not function as per the mandate given by people and the constitution but whatever it does going outside the Constitution would be held constitutional. Then, what incentives CA members would have even to be serious for constitution making when their terms and tenures are guaranteed by ‘doctrine of necessity’. There would be some argument to say that the doctrine of necessity alone cannot extend the tenure of CA for more than six months. However, the so called sovereign CA has all the incentives to amend the provisions in Interim Constitution and remove such barriers where if the mighty CA wishes, it can extend its term by innumerable times.

At this juncture, the first and foremost issue among the legal experts should be the implications of borrowing such principle into Nepalese Legal System which can have serious ramifications on fundamental points concerning the rule of law and constitution, the retrospective exercise of legislative powers by the law makers, and the yardstick and benchmark to adjudge the legality of actions in the future.

What we have to understand is the constitution is not only a legal document but also a political, social, economical testament and vision of a nation. Constitution embodies the hope and aspiration of the people of many generations and expected to be so in the time period yet to come. Therefore, CA, which has received the mandate from the people, will be exercising its power in various capacities and its functioning are not merely discharge of legal and constitutional functions. In this scenario, in my humble opinion, the court should have rescued itself to adjudge on the matter of extension of CA tenure, as the issue will have different dimensions including political and courts are not to interfere on such political powers. It is not only the implications of the outcome is political but the role of CA is itself is different from parliament under democratic set up. As the ‘doctrine of necessity’ comes with enormous peril of being misused and susceptible to tampering in future, it would be difficult for courts to stay away from the controversy inasmuch as the present verdict could be taken as stamping on the power of CA to extend its term, sometimes based on its own sweet will and fancy.

However, if we have to take a positive from the verdicts rendered, a silver lining can be that the court has upheld the supremacy of the parliament/CA and this supremacy could have been upheld even without resorting to ‘doctrine of necessity’. When there is enormous pessimism on people for not having stable functioning parliamentary democracy with able executive, it can only be hoped that the verdict, though may be founded on uncanny reasoning would be taken as a positive steps towards stable supreme parliament. If people are able to take this positive, another positive hope that comes to our mind naturally would be, hopefully, we will soon see our New Constitution.

© Rajib Dahal. The Author is an Advocate. He can be reached at rajib.dahal@gmail.com

Need of Service Tax in Nepal

In India, from the beginning of the 1990s, the concept of socialism has been slowly given up as state mechanism though Indian Constitution still stamps socialism as one of the features of Indian Federalism. When present Indian PM Manmohan Singh was the then Finance Minister, he introduced new jargon in its state mechanism- more liberalization, more privatization and reforms in economy orienting it more to market economy.
After few years, the concept of service tax was also introduced vide Finance Bill of 1994 where three kinds of services were made liable to service tax at the rate of 5%. From then, the taxable services have always expanded in the span of these 14 years and the kitty of government is always swelling. Today, the service sector constitutes 54 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and is hugely important to the economy.

The service tax which is imposed on the services is same as excise duty (Anat Sulk in Nepali) which is imposed on manufacture of goods. It is a tax paid on particular event of providing services when it originates from one person (service provider) to another person (Service Receiver/recipient).

The concept of service tax is different from Income tax as income tax is a direct tax and the person who earns his income has to pay tax on this income if it crosses stipulated threshold limit after permissible exemptions and deductions. But, service tax is paid as and when there is a provision of service from one person to another and if the total amount of service in a year crosses stipulated threshold amount. Service tax is an indirect tax in the sense that the burden of paying tax is passed on to the subsequent customers though payment is done by service provider itself.

Therefore, if Mr. A provides a taxable service to Mr. B for Rs. 100, then, Mr. A will charge Rs. 100 as consideration for service and Rs. 10 as service tax assuming the rate of service tax is @ 10%. Then, the invoice issued by Mr. A to Mr. B will show total of 110 Rs. And here the burden of paying tax has been shifted to Mr. B, who is a service receiver/recipient and a final customer but law generally fixes the liability of payment on service provider which is Mr. A. So, Mr. A will have to deposit that Rs.10 as service tax in government’s coffer though it is actually collected from Mr. B. That’s how all the indirect tax (Customs. Excise duty, sales tax/VAT, Entry Tax etc.) work.

After this little background about service tax and little history about service tax in India, I enjoin here in my this small note that Nepal is moving towards a stage where we need to impose service tax slowly but steadily. This debate is raised here after a recent decision of Government of Nepal imposing service tax in private educational institutions.
As I have already said elsewhere that the modalities are not completely known yet and the first step towards service tax itself is on the wrong service sector, the government must have received some flak from so called “intellectuals” and “protagonists of education-as-fundamental-rights” but these hue and cry here and there should not deter government from imposing service tax on other promising sectors.

I have mentioned the case of India at the start of this note to suggest that our close neighbor who has lots of similarities with our country in different indices is gaining revenue from service sector and if we learn from them how they have traversed a long path in as many as 14 years, then, it can be a great learning experience for our government before it puts its foot over another service sector.

The taxable services today can include, at its start, the services of chartered accountants, courier, transport of goods except agricultural products, advertisement sectors except print media, insurance services, home construction services and even banking services to cite a few examples.

When any indirect tax is imposed, the first thing needs to be carefully considered is there should not be any double taxation. There should not be any tax on taxes. In indirect tax language, it is called ‘cascading effects’ and the tax legislators should be very careful to avoid this ‘cascading effects’; to avoid this tax on the taxes. Generally, the government world over, succeeds this-removal of cascading effects by making a provision of credit where taxes already paid will be given as credit to the party who has paid tax but unfortunately, this does not benefit the common man who doesnot provide any taxable output services. This becomes the cost for the party which can not utilize any credit which is inherent fault imbibed in indirect tax jurisprudence.

One of the significant aspects of tax imposition is revenue administration by the government. The incompetent and those thriving on bribes must be thrown to jail without mercy, at the same time; the raj of big and powerful businesspeople should end. I have still vivid memories of those incidents where big and powerful business people shut down their shops in New Road, Bishal Bazar, when revenue administration from commercial tax (for Value Added Tax Administration) visited to inspect. These kinds of raj by business mafias must be dealt sternly and let all of them know that government does not plead them anymore to engage in business but government is there to create a business friendly environment.

In the conclusion, I feel that there is a need of service tax in Nepal, not in education sector or medical hospital sectors but in other sectors like tourism services, travel agent and tour operators, mobile telephony services, ringtone and value added services, advertisement services etc. Government can pitch the initiative keeping tax rate very low @ around 5% in its trial and wait and see the responses.