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Impunity emboldens violators of Essential Services Act




The two-day strike called by the water suppliers was the result of government´s own inaction and irresponsiveness.

Though the law authorizes the District Administration Office to take action against obstructing the supply of essential services, the government prefers to “kneel down” before the violators of the law rather than take actions, said advocate Jagannath Mishra who deals with consumer issues. “For instance, no such offenders have been punished for obstructing the emergency services since 1990, which has developed fearlessness among offenders. Almost all the law-breakers were protected due to political backing,” he claimed.

“This anarchism will not end unless such vested groups are punished,” he added. Giving an example of the action taken by the traffic police against drunk driving, he added, “None could dare to drink and drive as the traffic police have prevailed in this case,” said another consumer right activist and advocate Ram Chandra Simkhada.

The public transport entrepreneurs often call vehicular strike demanding fare hike, but the authorities have never penalized them.
The government´s recent agreement with jewelry entrepreneurs to let them operate as usual boosted the confidence of the water supplier to launch such a stir creating water crisis in the Valley, where 90 million liter of water is supplied by the private sector every day, he added.

There are several laws under which the entrepreneurs violating consumers´ rights can be booked. The Essential Services Mobilization Act, 1957, states that anyone who obstructs the delivery of essential services to public can face six months jail term and 1000 rupees fine. Similarly, someone who provokes the obstruction can face one year jail term and Rs 2000 fine.

The Act categorizes 16 basic services such as water, medical service, communication, garbage, among others, can´t be obstructed, which was revised in 2011 by the then Minister for Home and Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara.

Likewise, Black-marketing Act, 1942, provisions up to five years jail term. In addition, Consumer Protection Act, 1998, states that those who are found to be guilty of violating consumer rights can be sentenced up to three years in jail or Rs 500000 fine or both, as per the nature of the crime.
In 2009, the doctors at Teaching Hospital, Maharajgung had stopped even emergency services for a few days following their dispute with the hospital staff. The reason behind that dispute was shameful for the doctors´ community in the country. A peon level staff´s son was selected for MBBS study under Institute of Medicine quota. But majority of the doctors felt that a peon´s son does not deserve to be a doctor.

Responding to the writ filed on the same case in 2009, the Supreme Court had ordered the concerned authority to convict the guilty. However, the verdict remains unimplemented till date.

Admitting that the consumer rights activists, too, have done little to sensitize people to get organized for their rights, Simkhada added that the guilty of black-marketing and fraudster need to be socially excluded if the government leaves them free.
Meanwhile, the Kathmandu Chief District Officer Basanta Raj Gautam said that the government wants to take the protestors in its confidence rather than imposing a punishment.

“Everyone has rights to put forward their demand, we are committed to ease public suffering incase the situation worsens,” he added.

Source: Republica DailyLink:
Published on 2013-07-01 02:01:40

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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