Nepal's former king Gyanendra to lose state perks

KATHMANDU Fri Dec 9, 2011 6:05pm IST

Former King Gyanendra Shah speaks to the media after inaugurating former Crown Princess Himani Shah's non-governmental organization ''Himani Fund'' in Kathmandu October 8, 2010. REUTES/Navesh Chitrakar/Files

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KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Maoist-led Nepal will cut perks to former King Gyanendra and his family, a Supreme Court official said on Friday, three years after the Himalayan nation abolished the centuries-old monarchy.

A specially elected assembly dominated by the Maoist former rebels overwhelmingly voted to topple the 239-year-old monarchy in 2008 and turned the desperately poor country into a republic.

Until now, the government has allowed Gyanendra to continue using one of his former hunting lodges, and provided cars and fuel to him and his family in addition to normal security personnel.

But the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision on Thursday, said the facilities provided to Gyanendra through executive decisions were illegal and must be stopped.

"Facilities given to the former king and members of his family are not within the purview of law," Supreme Court official Hemanta Rawal told Reuters.

"If the government wants to give such facilities it must first make necessary laws. Without such legislations, state funds can't be distributed," Rawal said referring to the court order given in response to a petition.

Gyanendra became king in 2001 after a palace massacre in which his popular brother King Birendra and most of his family members were killed by then Crown Prince Dipendra, according to a government investigation. Dipendra, who also killed himself, was allegedly angry over the family's refusal to allow him to marry the woman of his choice.

But Gyanendra became unpopular after he sacked the elected government and took over absolute powers in 2005. He gave in to popular street protests a year later. Gyanendra now lives as a commoner with his family at his private home in an upmarket area in the Nepali capital.

Rawal said the court also ordered the government to stop perks and privileges like expensive cars and fuel provided by the state to some former prime ministers and ministers saying such facilities were also illegal.

A special constituent assembly, dominated by the Maoists, has until May next year to prepare Nepal's new constitution, the first republican charter after the abolition of the monarchy.

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