Nepal's deposed king has not paid electricity dues for 10 years

Kathmandu: Nepal's last monarch Gyanendra Shah has not paid his electricity dues for the last 10 years, the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority said on Wednesday. Gyanendra, after vacating the Narayan Hiti Royal Palace here in 2008, has been living in Nagarjuna Palace, a royal property on the northern outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley.

He has not been paying the electricity dues for the Nagarjuna Palace which he has been occupying since he left the Narayan Hiti royal palace, a Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) official said.

NEA assistant director Mukunda Man Chitrakar, who looks after auditing at the NEA, told media persons here that the staff at Nagarjuna Palace have repeatedly refused to acknowledge any letter sent by NEA raising the isue of unpaid power dues. The NEA, he said, has run up a loss of Rs.7 million in the last 10 years.

After the staff refused to receive NEA's letters, the electricity authority knocked the doors of Nirmal Niwas, another palace in Kathmandu in which Gyanendra used to live as former royal highness until the infamous royal massacre in Nepal in 2001.

Sagar Raj Timilsina, Gyanendra's personal secretary, reportedly told the NEA officials that the liability comes under the Prime Minister's Office not the Nagarjuna Palace. Until 2008, the PMO used to pay all the bills and tariffs incurred to the palaces belonging to the royals.

According to the Electricity Act, if a consumer fails to pay electricity bills for two months, his/her power connection will be cut and if any consumer continuously fails to pay bills for another six month, a ban will be placed on sale of his/her private properties like land and house for the next three generations.

Asked why had the NEA failed to cut the connection to the Nagarjuna Palace or impose a ban on selling of property as per the electricity act, Chitrakar said that since Gyanendra was a respected national and former head of the state, they did not initiate action against him.

"Instead of taking action against him, we decided to collect the tariff, if possible," he added. The staff at Nagarjuna Palace told the NEA officials that all properties of the formal royals had been nationalised since 2008 after Gyanendra vacated the Narayan Hiti palace.

"So, it is the duty of the government to pay the bills," the Nagarjuna Palace staff were reported to have told NEA officials. Nepal has started to nationalise the properties of former royals after the Himalayan nation declared itself a republican state in 2008.

A dedicated Office of the Nepal Trust is handling the properties of the former royals, including Gyanendra, and bringing them under its ambit. The Office of the Trust responded to a letter sent by the NEA that Nagarjuna Palace is being used by Gyanendra for his private purpose and is not owned by the government.

This has paved the way for NEA to knock the door of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). "We are writing to PMO soon in this respect," Chitrakar said.

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