There have been reports of political leaders and even the government sending disturbing signals that could badly dent country’s effort in ending impunity. It seems the government and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) is working to withdraw the case and grant amnesty to Resham Lal Chaudhary, the main accused of the Tikapur carnage. While RJPN, Chaudhary’s party, was demanding release of Chaudhary citing poor health—Chaudhary was on hunger strike demanding that he should be allowed to take oath of office as the lawmaker and be granted victory certificate from the Election Commission— Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa personally went to meet him on Saturday and broke his hunger strike by offering him juice. This, we are afraid, is going to lead us to another series of impunity on political garb.
Those demanding impunity for him often argue that his election to the House of Representatives from Kailali has proved him innocent. “When the people have pardoned him how can the judiciary or police administration still hold him guilty?” They tend to argue. This is a simplistic argument. Being elected does not absolve one from crimes. Given the rise of criminalization of politics and politicization of crimes, even candidates with criminal backgrounds have conveniently grabbed election tickets and won, but this in no way allows them to escape the punishment. Bal Krishna Dhungel, who was convicted of murder and who is at the moment serving sentence, had also won election from Okhaldhunga. The Supreme Court has announced five-year jail term for Deepak Manange, another lawmaker with criminal background, who won the election from Manang. Interpol has issued a red corner notice against him already. The case of Resham Chaudhary is much more serious. Chaudhary is the main accused in the Tikapur massacre of August 24, 2015, when seven security personnel including SSP Laxman Neupane and a toddler were brutally killed.
Besides setting a dangerous precedent, giving amnesty to such a person will be a great injustice to the families of the victims who are still struggling to come to terms with loss and are demanding justice. Their pleas for justice must not be ignored. RJPN leaders like Rajendra Mahato and Mahantha Thakur have been asking Prime Minister Oli to withdraw Chaudhary’s case and make arrangement for him to take oath of office. The PM must not listen to such advice. Chaudhary’s case is sub judice at the court. The Supreme Court in December had directed Chaudhary to surrender before the Kailali District Court and face court proceedings. He needs to face the court and prove himself innocent, if at all. We have embarked on a new political set up with the goal of establishing the rule of law. Pardoning him without facing the court will not only tarnish country’s image, but we will also be setting a bad record in human rights protection measure. Political class has found an easy excuse to settle criminal cases by giving it a political color. Any such efforts should be resisted.