The way our political class, police administration and, now the court, have responded to Ganga Maya Adhikari’s struggle for justice offers little reason to be optimistic about rule of law and justice in Nepal. The verdict delivered by District Court of Chitwan on Sunday indicates the same. In a rather unexpected verdict, the district court acquitted 12 people including Chhabi Lal Poudel, one of the main accused in the Maoist insurgency-era murder of her son Krishna Prasad Adhikari citing that evidence could not establish their involvement in Adhikari’s killing. “Since the accusation of murder could not be established against defendants based on just suspicion, they have been acquitted,” states the court order. With this order, the accused including Chhabi Lal Poudel have been released. Poudel was garlanded as he walked out of Dilli Bazar prison on Monday. The circumstances under which this has happened raise several uncomfortable questions.
Ganga Maya’s fight for justice is an open book now. She has sat for hunger strike several times demanding that the government bring her son’s murderers to book. She lost her husband in this struggle for justice four years ago and his dead body is still lying in the morgue of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu. A lot has been written, including a book, about the Adhikari family’s suffering. Thus there is no denying that her battle for justice is right and just and her son’s murderers must be punished. With the growing pressure from human rights organizations, media and civil society actors, the prime accused, Chhabi Lal Poudel, surrendered before the Supreme Court in July (many say he was advised to make this move by politicians in power). Then the government provided a compensation of Rs 10 million and assured Ganga Maya of justice. It is unfortunate that a month after she ended her 45-days-long hunger strike, she has been handed down the justice that many find questionable.
Ganga Maya has been deeply disturbed by the court verdict and has announced to resume fast-unto-death once again. “Now I have no reason to remain alive, better they let me die. I had merely asked for justice but both human rights activists and the government always kept tricking me,” she expressed deep frustration and hopelessness against the state with Republica on Sunday. “This is a country where you cannot get justice.” It is unjust to push the crusader of justice to this level of hopelessness. Ever since Krishna Prasad Adhikari was murdered in 2004, Ganga Maya has been relentlessly fighting for justice. Sunday’s verdict has sent a disturbing message about Nepal’s justice delivery system, both at home and abroad. Justice delayed is justice denied. In Ganga Maya’s case justice was delayed for over a decade, and now she feels she is denied of it. Court is the ultimate arbiter of justice. It is troubling that verdict of Chitwan district court failed in this regard.