Patan High Court grants clean chit to cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane, overturns the decision of Kathmandu District Court to imprison him for eight years

Published On: May 15, 2024 05:37 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, May 15: Patan High Court on Wednesday gave clean chit to cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane in an alleged rape case, overturning the decision of Kathmandu District Court to imprison him for eight years.

Issuing a verdict on an appeal filed by Lamichhane, Patan High Court on Wednesday acquitted the prolific Nepali leg-spinner, allowing him to return to the national team as the country gears up for the T20 World Cup Cricket.

Lamichhane, a 23-year-old leg-spinner, was a prominent figure in Nepali cricket, significantly raising the sport's profile in the country. He was accused of raping a young woman in a hotel in Kathmandu in 2022. Despite being freed on bail, he continued to play for the national team in international tournaments while his trial was ongoing.

Patan High Court Spokesman Bimal Parajuli confirmed that Lamichhane has been acquitted.

Lamichhane, who has consistently denied the charges, expressed his gratitude on Facebook, stating, "I am innocent and I will be indebted to those who believe and sympathize with my innocence."

The announcement of his acquittal was met with celebration, as dozens of fans cheered outside the court.

Lamichhane’s cricket career has been tumultuous after the rape accusation. In 2022, the police issued an arrest against him while he was playing in the Caribbean Premier League in Jamaica. He initially did not return to Nepal, leading to his dismissal as national captain and subsequent arrest. However, after being freed on bail, Cricket Association of Nepal lifted his ban, allowing him to rejoin the national team for the World Cup qualifiers and the 2023 Asia Cup.

His participation in cricket while the case was sub judice had been criticized within the country and abroad, with some Nepalis disavowing the team and Scotland's cricketers refusing to shake hands with him during an international tournament in Dubai.

The court’s verdict has come as respite as the Nepali national cricket team is in the US preparing for next month's T20 World Cup.

Cricket craze has been growing in Nepal, which was granted one-day international status by the world governing body in 2018, with Lamichhane being a significant contributor to this rise. His breakthrough came in 2018 when he was selected for the money-spinning Indian Premier League, the world's richest cricket tournament.

Despite Lamichhane’s high-profile case, the broader issue of rape in Nepal remains pressing. According to police, about 2,300 rape cases were reported in the fiscal year 2021-22, though rights advocates believe many more assaults go unreported.

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