KATHMANDU, Nov 1: Police on Tuesday arrested long-absconding murder convict Balkrishna Dhungel. Soon after the arrest, Dhungel, who is a leader of the CPN (Maoist Center), was produced before the Kathmandu District Court and was sent to Dillibazaar jail.
A police team deployed from the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) arrested Dhungel from Satdobato, Lalitpur while he was on his way to the hospital. With this, kidney patient Dhungel, who had been sentenced to imprisonment along with confiscation of properties, will have to stay 12 years five months in imprisonment.
Despite being convicted of murder, Dhungel was roaming about as a free man due to 'protection from political class'. Recently, photographs circulating on social media showed Dhungel attending a political meeting in Kathmandu. Dhungel was reportedly busy in the recent days in election-related cross-party negotiations. The police were looking the other way instead of arresting him despite repeated orders by the Supreme Court for his arrest.
Unlike in the past, police administration, according to informed sources, was forced to go after Dhungel following the filing of a contempt of court petition against Nepal Police Inspector General Prakash Aryal last week for ignoring the Supreme Court order to arrest him.
On Tuesday, advocate Dinesh Tripathi had filed a contempt case against IGP Aryal for not implementing court order. With the contempt case registered at the apex court, IGP Aryal was under pressure to go against wish of political class and his position was said to be shaky . Aryal himself might have to be removed from responsibilities if the court had sentenced him for contempt .
The family members of slain Shrestha welcomed the police move and said it has relieved their pain. “I am feeling so relieved to see Dhungel in jail,” said Sabitri Shrestha, sister of murdered Ujjan adding, “I just wish that the state does not spare such criminals. Let no one face the fate like ours.”
Dhungel's party, UCPN (Maoist Center), however, condemned the arrest arguing that the case should be dealt under the transitional justice mechanism. The government has established two separate commissions-Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons-to settle thousands of insurgency-era cases.
Both the courts and victim family members, however, state the case was purely personal and it does not fall under jurisdiction of transitional justice mechanism.
“This is a serious blow to ongoing peace process. And this kind of arrest in the wake of political parties reaching agreement to resolve such case through transitional justice mechanism only jeopardize the prospect of successfully concluding peace process,” said Maoist Center leader Devendra Poudel.
Maoist leader Poudel said regular criminal justice process does not address these kinds of case. “This is against letter and spirit of Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Constitution,” he said stressing political cases should be politically resolved.
Echoing Maoist Center other splinter communist groups have also warned that it will invite serious consequences in the coming days. Maoist breakaway groups including the Biplab-led Communist Party of Nepal have asked the government to withdraw case against Dhungel and demanded his unconditional release.
Dhungel and other Maoist leaders were convicted for killing Ujjan Kumar Shrestha, a local of Okhaldhunga, during the Maoist insurgency. But Dhugel moved the then Rajbiraj Appellate Court which revoked the district court's order. This led him to walk out after serving a brief jail term.
Dismayed with the appellate court verdict the family members of the slain Shrestha moved to Supreme Court challenging the appellate court order. Responding to the case the apex court in January upheld the district court order paving the way to arrest the murder convict.
Dhungel, however, continued to enjoy impunity. Further, then prime minister Baburam Bhattarai recommended Dhugel for presidential clemency in November 2011. The plea was also quashed by the apex court.
30 June 1998: Ujjan Kumar Shrestha was killed by Balkrishna Dhungel and other Maoist leaders
10 May 2004: Okhaldhunga District Court sentenced Dhungel and others for Ujjan's murder
25 June 2006: Rajbiraj Appellate Court revoked district court order
10 April 2008: Dhungel elected lawmaker from Okhaldhunga-1
Jan 3 2010: Supreme Court upheld district court order by slapping life imprisonment with confiscation of property
8 November 2011: Baburam Bhattarai-led government recommended clemency for Dhungel
23 November 2011: SC stayed clemency order
7 January 2016: SC quashed the clemency plea
April 16 2017: Supreme Court administration asked the Nepal Police to arrest murder-convict Dhungel
24 October 24: Court contempt case filed against IGP Aryal for not arresting murder-convict Dhungel
31 October 2017: CIB arrested Dhungel and sent to Dilli Bazaar