Prerana Marasini

KATHMANDU: The Nepal government's decision to issue Machine Readable Passports produced in India has sparked a controversy here.

The Supreme Court has asked the government not to implement the deal with the Indian company until April 12 as two petitions have been filed against the decision. The court has scheduled a hearing next week. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, whose ministry made the agreement with India, has been asked for clarification by the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature Parliament. Even the Prime Minister has been asked to clarify on giving the contract to India without announcing a tender.

Among other things, the rate to which Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited has agreed — $4 a copy — has been controversial as other companies are reportedly offering lower rates. Issues of national security and sovereignty have also been raised by various political parties, including the opposition Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).