Dhungel freed despite criticism

- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

May 30, 2018-Despite widespread criticism, Nepal Communist Party leader Balkrishna Dhungel has got presidential pardon that relieved him of life sentence for murder.

Dhungel was released from Dillibazaar Prison on Tuesday, following the government’s decision to grant him clemency for “good conduct” during his time in jail. President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on the government’s recommendation, granted 816 prisoners pardon for having served 40 percent of their jail term and for demonstrating “good conduct”.

According to Chabindra Parajuli, spokesperson for the President’s Office, he was pardoned on the Cabinet’s recommendation as provisioned in Article 276 of the constitution on the occasion of Republic Day.

The Supreme Court had convicted Dhungel of masterminding the murder of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha of Okhaldhunga in 1998 during the Maoist insurgency. He was handed life term with confiscation of property. The Okhaldhunga District Court had convicted Dhungel, in 2004, of murdering Shrestha and sentenced him for life. In 2006, the Rajbiraj Appellate Court gave him a clean chit. The apex court upheld the district court’s verdict in 2010.

Dhungel, who was released following the Appeal Court’s order after spending around seven years behind bars, was caught in November last year. Life term amounts to 20 years in jail.

Human rights defenders, conflict victims and Nepali Congress members had been protesting since the news of the Cabinet decision to pardon him broke out. Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi moved court against the clemency. The apex court has refused a stay order since Dhungel has already been released but the final verdict is due.

“The pardon is an attack on the judicial system. The government has no authority to grant pardon in cases of severe human rights violation while the case is sub judice in court,” Tripathi told the Post. Stating that the Constitutional Bench in January 2016 asked the government to formulate a law before recommending pardon, he said the clemency decision was illegal.

Conflict victims took serious exception to the decision saying that it had dashed their hope for justice. “How can we trust the government to honour the transitional justice body’s recommendations when it flouts the apex court’s verdict?” Suman Adhikari, former chief of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, wondered.

In Parliament, taking special time before presentation of the annual budget on Tuesday, NC parliamentarian Gagan Thapa said Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli “can’t behave like a monarch who made arbitrary decisions”.

Dhungel said he had fallen victim to the conspiracy of “so called human rights defenders”. He claimed that any action taken during the insurgency was the erstwhile rebel party’s decision, which should be looked after by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Published: 30-05-2018 07:09

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