Apex court upholds Jha’s appointment as NTA chief

- Pranab Kharel, SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu
Apex court upholds Jha’s appointment as NTA chief

Oct 28, 2014-

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday upheld the appointment of Digambar Jha as the chairman of the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA). A division bench of Chief Justice Ram Kumar Shah and Justice Girish Chandra Lal maintained that Jha met all the required qualifications.

The bench ruled that the plaintiff Bishwonath Goyal, who was one of the short listed candidates for the post of NTA chairman, approached the court only after being sidelined from the process, and has not questioned any error of law as the petition was filed after Jha assumed office.

The government had appointed Jha as the NTA chief on December 4, 2012. The SC had issued a stay order against his appointment on January 1, 2013. The court decision had surfaced on the grounds that Jha did not possess the required qualifications for the post.

Two writ petitions were filed at the SC seeking a stay order on Jha’s appointment stating that he was unqualified and lacked professional experience as required by the Telecommunication Act and Regulation 1997.

Goyal filed a writ three days after the government decided to appoint Jha. Likewise, advocates Jagannath Mishra, Sushil Kaji Baniya and Hari Chandra Timalsena filed another writ on December 12, 2012.

As per the Telecommunication Act and Regulation 1997, a candidate for the NTA board should be qualified and experienced in the technical and administrative, market management, accounts and auditing or legal fields related to telecommunications service. The NTA board consists of five members including the chairman.

Jha holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and has no expertise in the telecom sector. He is a former managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation and does not have experience in the field of telecommunication.

At the time of Jha’s appointment, the then Minister for Information and Communications Raj Kishor Yadav and Chief Secretary Lila Mani Paudel had a heated argument over his qualifications. Jha was named the chairman based on a direct proposal presented to the Cabinet by Minister Yadav. Paudel had been against the decision. The post of NTA chairman had remained vacant for more than four months before Jha’s appointment. Jha had been appointed to the post in August 2012 after the immediate past chairman Bhesh Raj Kanel resigned. But after his nomination was contested in court, the NTA was again left without a chairman.

According to an NTA source, the institution has not been able to reach a decision on policy and fill vacant positions due to the absence of a chief. “We have also failed to take action against telecom service providers for violation of rules,” said the source.

After Jha was appointed as the chairman, the NTA intensified preparations to issue unified licences to telecom companies including Smart Telecom. Subsequently, a writ was filed at the SC against the unified licence provision arguing that it had been introduced in violation of the Telecommunication Act.

A selection committee headed by the then communications secretary Surya Prasad Silwal had short listed Jha, Goyal and Anil Jha for the NTA’s top post. Goyal was a cinch to get the job since he had experience in the telecom sector and Anil Jha had already become the general manager of Janak Educational Material Centre when the government appointed Jha to the post.

Published: 29-10-2014 09:07

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