Thousands of service seekers are likely to face a problem following the decision of the Notary Public Council to strip the Law Books Management Committee, an autonomous government body, of the right to translate official government documents.
A serious problem is about to surface as many foreign diplomatic missions do not recognize the translations of documents carried out by notaries without authentication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) -- something existing legal provisions do not provide for.
Officials said the Notary Public Council is currently exerting pressure on MoFA to authenticate the documents translated by notaries but the ministry is not ready to do so.
"In the first place, existing laws do not allow us to authenticate documents translated by notaries. Diplomatic missions have also raised concerns about the credibility and quality of the translations," said a senior official at MoFA.
Though the Notary Public Act in 2063 BS stripped the LBMC of its monopoly right to translate official government documents, the Act has a provision for giving continuity to LBMC´s work in consent with the Notary Public Council. The Act does not say which government body is to authenticate documents translated by the notaries.
Officials at LBMC said they received a letter from the Notary Public Council on July 10 not to accept translation work on any government documents from July 16. "Since some documents require months for translation we are in confusion whether to complete the tasks received already as the letter sent by the Notary Public Council categorically asks us to stop translations from July 16," said an official asking to remain unnamed.
Those aspiring to go abroad for further studies, work and other purposes need to submit translations of documents such as certificates of citizenship, character, birth, marriage and death if foreign diplomatic missions ask for them. LBMC has been translating official government documents for the past 48 years and the foreign ministry authenticated them as per existing law.
MoFA had repeatedly asked the Notary Public Council to strip LBMC of the right to translate government documents only after a ´credible arrangement´ is in place to carry out the work, in view of concerns raised by various diplomatic missions over the credibility of translations done by public notaries. But the Council recently took the decision to halt the translation work by LBMC under pressure from Nepal Bar Association, according to sources.
The Notary Public Council headed by the attorney general is entrusted with regulating the notaries, and comprises the secretaries from MoFA and the Ministries of Law and Justice and Land Reform, the Supreme Court registrar and the Nepal Bar Association president.
Though all the office bearers of the Notary Public Council attended a meeting called by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha on Thursday to resolve the problem, NBA President Prem Bahadur Khadka was conspicuously absent.
Talking to Republica, Khadka said he could not attend the meeting as he was in Pokhara. "The Notary Public Council took the decision as per the Notary Public Act. Why should the government not scrap the Act if does not allow the notaries to do the work provisioned in the Act?" he asked.
Khadka argued that there has not been any problem in the translation of documents. "I believe the government itself is trying to create problems. All diplomatic missions except a few have accepted documents translated by the notaries. It is the duty of the government to tell those diplomatic missions that we have set up a new provision," he said.
There are some 175 notaries in Nepal. An aspiring candidate for notary public needs to sit for an examination conducted by the Notary Public Council and secure 80 marks out of 100 to get a license.
"It is not fair to restrain notaries from doing the jobs assigned to them by law just because some of them are involved in unscrupulous practices. As there is a law to put such notaries behind bars for four years, the government should instead punish those involved in unscrupulous practices," he further said.