Ex-speaker Mahara off to jail until final verdict

Published On: November 5, 2019 08:45 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

He is the first politician of his stature to land in jail on a criminal charge in Nepal’s recent history

KATHMANDU, Nov 5: Kathmandu District Court on Monday sent former speaker of the House of Representatives and multiple-times minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara to jail pending a final verdict on the charge of attempted rape of an employee at the parliament secretariat in late August.

Chief Judge at the District Court Sudarshan Raj Pandey announced his decision to send a senior politician of the country to the jail following pleadings by government attorneys and Mahara’s legal counsel over the charge-sheet filed by the district attorney’s office (DAO).

“I order the sending of Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who was parliament speaker, to Dillibazar Jail until the final verdict, in view of a possible sentence against him under the Civil Criminal Code on a charge of rape attempt brought by an employee at parliament,” said Pandey.

The DAO has sought up to seven years and six months in jail for Mahara as per the Civil Criminal Code and the Sentencing Act. Mahara could face up to five years in jail under Sections 219 and 34 of the Criminal Code for attempted rape, and an additional two years and six months under Section 15 of the Sentencing Act for committing an offence while holding public office. The minimum possible sentence for Mahara is five years and three months if the charges against him are substantiated.

Mahara’s eyes were filled with tears as he emerged handcuffed from the court on his way to Dillibazar Jail. He did not say anything to waiting journalists as he was led away by police. He is to be kept in the ‘ka’ cell, according to jail officials. 

Under the newly-amended Civil Code, a person facing a criminal charge that could land him or her in jail for more than three years cannot be released on bail or given a general ‘tarikh’ (court appearance dates). With the court order Monday, Mahara is required to serve time until the court passes its final verdict.

This is the first instance of a politician of Mahara’s stature being sent to jail over a criminal charge in Nepal’s recent political history. Earlier, then minister from the Nepali Congress and Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (Republican), Jaya Prakash Gupta, was sent to jail after the Supreme Court convicted him of corruption. 

Mahara’s downfall comes after a female employee at the parliament secretariat called the police and registered a complaint accusing him of attempting to rape her. Although she changed her statement a week after filing a complaint in this connection at the local police office, Kathmandu DAO submitted a video statement she had made before the police, broken glasses and half a bottle of whiskey allegedly belonging to Mahara and confiscated from the woman’s room as incriminating evidence.

Mahara, on instruction from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), resigned from the post of speaker on October 1, three days after the incident. But he has retained his seat as lawmaker and won’t be suspended until the court issues a final verdict. 

Mahara spent about a month in police detention after his arrest on October 6 from his official residence in Baluwatar. But he was kept at Norvic International Hospital in Kathmandu from the fourth day of his arrest until Monday after he complained about some health issues.

The former speaker has lined up top legal talent including former attorney general Raman Shrestha and former head of Nepal Bar Association (NBA) Sher Bahadur KC for his defense.

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