KATHMANDU, Nov 1: With the arrest of murder convict and Maoist Centre leader Balkrishna Dhungel in an eight-year-old case, it has been shown that the filing of contempt of court charges can be an effective tool for the enforcement of justice.
“Obviously, this has happened because of the contempt of court case filed against the chief of Nepal Police,” human rights lawyer Govinda Sharma Bandi told Republica. According to him, if the intention of the government is not to make the Maoist Centre pay for entering into an alliance with CPN (UML) but is true to protect the rule of law, it is a praiseworthy step to arrest Dhungel. Senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi had filed the contempt of court case against Nepal Police chief Prakash Aryal for not arresting Dhungel as ordered by the apex court. Dhungel had been enjoying a state of impunity despite his conviction.
“If there was no political motive in this arrest, the police should show courage and arrest thousands of other criminals who have been absconding after being convicted by the highest court,” Bandi added. He underlined that contempt of court should be invoked as a weapon of last resort to enforce court orders, keep the rule of law intact and secure the rights of the people.
A contempt of court case also helped to ensure separate ballot papers for the upcoming first-past-the-post elections to parliament and provincial assemblies. Rastriya Janata Party leader Sarvendra Nath Shukla moved the apex court when the Election Commission failed to abide by its October 18 order to ensure separate ballot papers for these direct elections.
“Dhungel's arrest and the printing of separate ballot papers have established that a court verdict can see implementation if this contempt weapon is used,” Shukla's legal counsel Dipendra Jha commented. “This recent exercise of the contempt weapon proves that there is still room for good governance if the courts show courage,” he added.
According to Article 128(4) of the Constitution of Nepal, the apex court has the authority to punish anyone on the ground of disrespecting court orders issued in the course of the administration of justice, while Section 17 (4) of the Administration of Justice Act, 2016 has determined one year in jail or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both for such an offence.
Senior advocate Tripathi had filed his first contempt of court case in the Supreme Court when Dhungel expressed his dissatisfaction over the court ruling to arrest him six months ago. He had filed the case seeking Dhungel's arrest when the latter said he would take physical action against former chief justices Kalyan Shrestha and Sushila Karki, who had issued the ruling in this case. The Supreme Court had issued a seven-day notice to the police to arrest Dhungel and bring him to court when Karki was chief justice. “If there is no other way to implement court orders, the provision for invoking contempt of court comes into effect automatically,” Tripathi added.