The historical Khula Manch has shrunk over the years and it faced serious encroachment issue with the recent case of 52 illegal structures constructed on the northern part of Khula Manch. Manoj Kumar Bhetwal, the owner of Jaleshwor Swachhanda Builders was the one responsible behind this illicit act. The builders were only allowed to construct a temporary structure for traffic police like toilets and canteen. But, around 52 temporary structures were built with shutters in them to rent out to shopkeepers in the busy bus park area.
While the local government representative of ward-28 claimed that no permission for construction was granted, the Metropolitan office also did not have any significant answer to this breach of law. But the overnight built structures couldn’t last long as the protest done by the locals, conservationists, activists, and politicians, put pressure on the metropolitan government and so it demolished the illegal structures built at Khula Manch. Although the case now seems to have been solved, it is still a matter of concern as to on what basis a builder can not just think of, but successfully build 52 shutters to rent on public land. This is a serious threat to the rule of law. If the people carry out such unlawful acts, of this magnitude in public place, and get away with it so easily, how will the state ensure that the rule of law promised by the constitution of Nepal 2015 will be achieved? Further, almost 30 percent of the shutters were already found to be rented and some had even opened the shops already.
Now that the shutters were demolished, the shopkeepers who took loans to rent those shutters with a hope to earn some money are in dismay. They are concerned about their investment, made through loans being gone in such a manner. Will the builder compensate them their loss and if not, who do they complain to, for they have been made a part of this illegal act too. While this case has revealed the influence of the powerful mafia groups and the irresponsibility on part of the government, the brighter side of the case is that with the help of active civil society organizations, the case was dealt with in favor of people and eventually rule of law was restored. However, people need to bear this in mind that Khula Manch is just one example and that several other open spaces and public lands of Kathmandu valley face the threat of encroachment and it is high time to conserve and protect these places of historical, natural and cultural importance. Also, people who dare to challenge the law of the land, like the Jaleshwor Swachhanda Builders in this case, must be brought to the legal jurisdiction and punished according to the rule of law. It is important for every citizen of Nepal to realize that Nepal is a democratic state with the rule of law and while the laws safeguard our rights, no one is above the law.