President Paudel’s decision to pardon Resham Chaudhary’s life sentence draws flak

Published On: May 28, 2023 08:15 PM NPT By: Sajira Shrestha

KATHMANDU, May 28: In a highly controversial move, President Ram Chandra Paudel has pardoned the prison sentence of Resham Chaudhary, who is serving life imprisonment in connection with the brutal murder of eight persons including seven police personnel and a minor in Tikapur in 2015.

The prison sentences of 19 people including Nagarik Unmukti Party (NUP) leader Resham Chaudhary, have been waived on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, according to the Office of the President. The cabinet meeting held on Sunday morning decided to recommend the pardon of Chaudhary's imprisonment.

Former bureaucrats and civil society leaders have expressed serious concern over the government’s latest move. They argue that the move could promote impunity in the country, giving rise to politicization of crimes. “This will give rise to criminalization of politics. This will also pose a serious threat to the rule of law,” said former Secretary of Nepal Government Shankar Prasad Koirala.

Only on Friday, President Poudel had refused to waive the life sentence of Chaudhary as recommended by the government. He had sent back the recommendation to the Home Ministry, suggesting to do the needful according to the existing laws and principles propounded by the Supreme Court. 

Article 276 of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 provides for pardon. "The President may pardon, postpone, change or reduce the sentence imposed by any court, judicial or quasi-judicial body or administrative officer or body in accordance with the law," it is written in the constitution.

The decision of President Paudel to waive the life sentence of Chaudhary comes amid the government recommending him again on Sunday to pardon his life sentence. According to the judgment of the District Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court, Chaudhary should remain in prison until Falgun 13, 2094 BS. However, by changing this legal provision, the government had initiated the process of granting pardon 14 years before.

It may be recalled that the wife of the police officer who lost his life in the Tikapur incident had filed a petition in the Office of the President not to grant amnesty to Chaudhary. Sharda Kadayat Bohra, wife of police inspector Keshav Bohora, who lost his life in the incident, had submitted a petition to the President's Office on Friday.

Party insiders say the decision of the government to pardon Chaudhary’s prison sentence comes amid Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government’s bid to solicit support of the party to requisite majority in the parliament. The party has four members in the HoR.

Along with Chaudhary, the remaining prison sentences of 482 people, including seven senior citizens, have been waived on the occasion of the Republic Day on May 29. 

Although Article 276 of the Constitution has a provision which states that "the President may pardon, postpone, change or reduce the sentence imposed by any court, judicial or quasi-judicial body or administrative officer or body in accordance with the law," there is also a provision in the Code that the sentences for crimes like corruption, torture, coercion, killing by cruel and inhumane means or control, genocide, kidnapping, body hostage or missing person, human trafficking and trafficking, explosion, money laundering, imprisonment for more than three years, drug trafficking cannot be pardoned.

Chaudhary has been convicted in the Tikapur carnage and is serving a life sentence at the Dillibazar jail. He was the mastermind of the Tikapur (Kailali) carnage that erupted on August 17, 2015. The agitating Tharu activists had brutally killed eight people including Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Lakshman Neupane, who was the head of the then Seti Zone at the time, five members of the Nepal Police, two members of the Armed Police Force and one infant in the ensuing clash with the police.

In March 2019, Kailali District Court handed down a life sentence to 11 people including Chaudhary in connection with the incident. The decision was also upheld by the High Court.

Chaudhary then appealed to the SC against the decision of the High Court. On May 16, a division bench of SC justices Dr Anand Mohan Bhattarai and Nahkul Subedi decided that Chaudhary should be sentenced to life imprisonment. 

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