Lawmakers of Nepal’s federal parliament on Saturday have endorsed such a provision which in the long run will not only make a mockery of our law and order system but also allow the members accused of various crimes to serve as lawmakers and walk with impunity. Going against the past practice of suspending lawmakers immediately after they are accused of crime, lawmakers have agreed to not suspend them at all, allowing them to remain in position until they are convicted by the court. This decision of parliament’s Regulations Drafting Committee is deeply flawed and can have serious repercussion on our journey toward establishing crime-free society. It is faulty also because the regulation contradicts existing criminal justice system whereby officials facing criminal and corruption charges in the court are suspended immediately after the charges are filed. Previous parliamentary regulation had a provision to suspend the lawmakers as well. Under the provision, lawmakers Gayatri Shah and BP Shah were suspended after they were accused of misusing red passports. CPN-UML lawmaker DB Karki was also suspended in bribery case.
Saturday’s decision goes against Regulation Drafting Committee’s decision of April this year regarding automatic suspension of lawmakers facing custody on any charges. It is strange that parliament should revoke the good provision it had made earlier. As per Saturday’s provision Resham Chaudhary of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, who has been accused of masterminding killing of police officials and locals during Tikapur carnage in 2015, Deepak Manage, who has been convicted of murder, and Nawaraj Silwal, who has been accused of forging government documents, will be able to serve as lawmakers until their cases are settled by the court. But given our slow justice delivery system we don’t know when or whether it will ever happen.
It is shameful that main opposition Nepali Congress and Madhes-based parties stood against suspension provision instead of advocating for it, while Maoist Center was silent and UML is learned to have advocated for continuation of previous provision. Equally embarrassing is the position taken by Madhesi leader Laxman Lal Karna, also a member of Regulation Drafting Committee, who demanded state privileges to lawmakers accused of crimes. He was pressing for continuation of state privileges for such lawmakers. Political parties are trying to set a dangerous precedent by letting crime accused to serve as proud members of the parliament. They should immediately revoke this decision and parliament should reject such a regulation without ifs and buts. The lawmakers accused of crimes should not be allowed to serve in those capacities until the court declares them innocent. It is dismaying that political parties are still acting as if they are above the law, showing complete disregard to the fact that such action might attract the attention of national and international legal bodies and human rights watch groups. People are expecting meaningful reforms in our criminal justice system. The fact that political parties still stand in favor of laws to absolve crime accused shows they are least bothered about creating the state guided by law and order. In fact, it smacks of criminal intention on the part of our lawmakers who advocated and supported the deeply disturbing provision.