January 4, 2019 07:27 AM NPT
By: Ashok Dahal
KATHMANDU, Jan 4: Resham Chaudhary, who is in judicial custody on the charge of masterminding the 2015 Tikapur massacre, has been administered oath of office and secrecy as Member of Parliament on Thursday, more than a year after his election. Seven policemen including an SSP and a toddler were killed by Tharu protestors in Tikapur of Kailali in August 2015.
Chaudhary who was on the run after the incident contested the 2017 parliamentary elections by filing candidacy through his representatives and emerged victorious from Kailali-1, representing Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN). Although lawmaker-elect Chaudhary was given an election certificate by the Election Commission (EC) after his surrender to the Kailali district court in February 2018, his oath was stalled because he was taken into custody immediately.
On Thursday, Chaudhary was taken to Singha Durbar from the Dillibazar jail and Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, on the instruction of Prime Minister KP Oli, administered the oath to Chaudhary. Mahara had been insisting that Chaudhary can be sworn in if he is brought to Singha Durbar.
Though the swearing-in was scheduled for Thursday morning, it was postponed to the afternoon after the Dillibazar jail refused to send the detainee outside until it receives an official instruction from the Home Ministry. According to sources Home Secretary Prem Rai then ordered the jail authority to send Chaudhary to Singha Durbar under police escort.
Chaudhary clad in traditional Dhaka attire and sunglasses took oath of office and secrecy in Tharu language. Right after his swearing-in, the general secretary of the parliament secretariat, Manohar Bhattarai, conferred on Tharu the badge of a lawmaker.
Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders including deputy leader of parliamentary party Subas Nembang and chief whip Dev Gurung were present at the swearing-in function while the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) leaders remained absent.
“A lawmaker accused of a crime amounting to moral turpitude and serving time in jail cannot take oath of office and secrecy,” NC spokesman Bishwa Prakash Sharma tweeted on Thursday.
After the swearing-in function, RJPN leaders and lawmakers congratulated Chaudhary with garlands and scarfs before he was sent back to jail. Another opposition party, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, issuing a statement on Thursday, also protested against the administering of oath to Chaudhary.
“My voters have delivered justice to me, now it is the turn of the court to give me justice,” Chaudhary said. “The system should tell me who were those 34,000 people in Tikapur who elected me and whether their mandate should be respected or not?”
Reiterating that he was innocent and was in Bardiya at the time of the Tikapur incident, Chaudhary expressed hope that the court would give justice to him. “I hope the judiciary will give me justice and it must. I still demand a fair probe of the incident and the real culprit(s) be punished. I have never sought amnesty for the culprits,” he added.
While leaving Singha Durbar in a police vehicle, Chaudhary said this might be the first time in Nepal’s history that a lawmaker has been sent to jail after being sworn in.
According to parliament secretariat Chaudhary will not be suspended as lawmaker but he cannot attend the House meetings and won’t receive perks and salary according to rule 244 (3) of the parliamentary regulations. The parliamentary regulations are silent about suspension of lawmakers in such case, but state that any lawmaker who is in judicial custody on charges that could land him/her over three years in jail cannot work in the capacity of lawmaker and is barred from salary and perks.
Chaudhary was in the most wanted list of police after he was accused of masterminding the Tikapur massacre. He denies the charge and had surrendered to the Kailali District Court on February 27, 2018, after winning the parliamentary election.