The Supreme Court verdict to uphold the decision of then Patan Appellate Court to convict Deepak Manange to five years in jail has been welcomed in social media. Rajiv Gurung, known with alias of Deepak Manange, is the newly elected member of Provincial Assembly from Manang. Patan Appellate court had convicted him in 2007 in a murder case. A joint session bench of Justices Deepak Raj Joshi and Purushottam Bhandari on Tuesday upheld this verdict. Manange will not only be arrested and put behind bars for the next five years, he will also be suspended from the post of provincial lawmaker. He had become the subject of controversy when his name was suggested as a candidate for provincial election. Media fraternity and general public protested against his candidacy but taking advantage of loopholes in the Election Act, he managed to secure election ticket as an independent candidate and win.
Pre-election, political leaders not only maintained silence over nomination of questionable characters for election race, some of them even openly defended. UML chief K P Oli, for example, stood in favor of Manange. “Who else do you expect to be contesting from Manang if not Manange?” he had said in October, 2017. Following strong criticism from general public, UML did not field him as the candidate from its party but then Manange chose to stand as an independent candidate, whose win was facilitated when UML candidate withdrew candidacy in an apparent bid to help Manange. Thanks to the Supreme Court decision, the possibility of such a tainted figure with criminal background entering the provincial parliament has ended. But this is not the end of the story. As a matter of fact, every political party had fielded, or tried to, one or other candidate with tainted record. Ganesh Lama, Raju Gorkhali, Parshu Ram Basnet and Roj Rana had also been recommended. Ganesh Lama, another person with criminal background managed to wrest ticket for provincial assembly lawmaker from Kavre district anyway though he was defeated.
Political parties have earned notoriety for openly harboring and even protecting criminals or those involved in criminal activities lately. Since they enjoy protection from the party bosses, criminals manage to remain out of the hook. They make the complete mockery of rule of law when they win the elections. It is a known fact that political parties mobilize dons and goons during the election to intimidate voters. Criminalization of politics and politicization of crimes has become a new normal. This is not how our nascent republic should be functioning. There should be commitment among all parties not to shelter, protect and pamper cadres with criminal background, let alone allowing them to contest elections. Law enforcing agencies like Nepal Police should be vigilant. Nepali politics cannot be allowed to be tainted with crime even after we have come all the way from abolition of monarchy to institutionalizing federal democratic republic with rule of law, prosperity, justice and development as new agenda. Though delayed, the verdict on Deepak Manange is a welcome step. But we will be able to control crime when others like him also face punishment and politicians stop protecting criminals. Only then will people feel semblance of rule of law.