Mahara and Alam’s cases indicate government seriousness about ‘lawbreakers’ – can we also be hopeful about reviving war-time crime cases?

  • November 5, 2019

Image Caption: L-R: Former Speaker Mahara, suspended lawmaker Alam, and relatives protesting in 2003 for justice (Singh/Getty)

It seems the Office of Attorney General and District Attorney’s Office are serious – yesterday, disgraced House Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara was remanded to judicial custody despite having one of the best legal teams in the country defending him. Kathmandu District Court yesterday ordered Mahara be sent to Dillibazar prison until a final verdict is made. 

Former speaker Mahara, a prominent political leader of the ruling party, has been accused of attempt to rape. The District Attorney Office has sought up to seven-and-a-half-year prison term (five years for attempted rape and two and a half years for committing an offence while holding public office) against him. Since the evidence against Mahara is incriminating, and the sought sentence is above 3 years in prison, the disgraced politician cannot be released on bail. The days he spends in custody as the case develops will be counted towards serving the sentence. 

Mahara, who was arrested on October 6, has been accused of attempted rape by an employee of the Parliament Secretariat Office.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s Office in Rautahat has sought life imprisonment against 11 persons, including suspended lawmaker Mohammad Aftab Alam, for their alleged involvement in killing the individuals injured in a bomb blast in Rautahat district in April, 2008.

The Attorney’s Office has filed three separate cases — murder, attempted murder and crimes relating to Explosives Act — against Alam at Rautahat District Court. The Office has registered charges under the Criminal Code seeking a maximum of 25 years’ jail term for the suspended lawmaker, as per media reports. 

The charge sheet was filed after Nepal Police concluded that Alam is guilty of the 2008 bombing incident in Rajpur. The investigating team gathered details from the persons injured in the bomb blast, the families of the deceased in the blast, the then police officers, medical reports of injured persons, the tractor used in the incident and the version of witnesses as evidences against the accused. Superintendent of Police Bhupendra Khatri said their investigation had found the suspended lawmaker’s involvement in the bomb blast in Rajpur 12 years ago.

His case will be heard in Rautahat District Court before a verdict is made. 

Both the cases, involving high profile politicians, suggest that the national judiciary is intent on upholding the constitution and establishing that no one is above the law. 

Though commendable, one can also not help but wonder if the courts of the country will pursue other stagnant cases involving other political bigwigs. For instance, co-chair of the ruling party Pushpa Kamal Dahal has around 37 pending cases related to the decade-long armed conflict against him in courts across the country. Similarly, a number of cases are filed against Chairperson of the Federal Council of Socialist Party Nepal Dr Baburam Bhattarai as well as Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. 

An estimated 58,052 complaints are registered in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body established to investigate war-time crimes and enforced disappearances. However, the body, mired in political controversies, has been unable to make any headway, therefore obstructing the victims’ constitutionally guarded right to justice. 

Will new the judiciary pick up these cases too?