Chaudhary sworn in after party’s pressure

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Jan 4, 2019-

In a dramatic turn of events, Resham Chaudhary, the main accused behind the Tikapur carnage, took the oath of office at the Parliament Secretariat in Singha Durbar on Thursday. Before being sent back to Dillibazaar jail for judicial custody, Chaudhary also got the election certificate and the parliament’s logo.

Following pressure from Chaudhary’s Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, the government decided to facilitate House of Representatives Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara in swearing him in. Mahara had expressed his readiness to administer the oath to Chaudhary if the government brought him to the secretariat. RJP-N leaders, in their meeting with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on December 25, had threatened to withdraw the support to the government if their demands, which included Chaudhary’s swearing-in, were not addressed urgently.

In his address to the Lower House the following day, Rajendra Mahato, coordinator of the RJP-N presidium, had said it was injustice to jail Chaudhary while those who led the decade-long insurgency that cost the lives of thousands of people were in the seat of power. 

Mahato had also warned the government not to deny Chaudhary the recognition of a parliamentarian just because “he is the son of a Tharu”.

Chaudhary won the parliamentary election with a huge margin last year from Kailali-1 even as he remained underground. Police had been searching for him on the charge of masterminding the carnage at Tikapur, Kailali, which took the lives of eight people including a toddler in August 2015. Chaudhary denies the charges.

“The people gave me justice through their votes last year,” Chaudhary said after the oath on Thursday. “I expect the same from the judiciary.” A case against him is sub judice in court.

The oath has elated RJP-Nepal leaders. Mahato, who witnessed the ceremony, said it was respecting the popular verdict. “This is a welcome move. Now, we want the government to take steps towards constitution amendment,” he told the media.

Mahara is said to have agreed to administer the oath as the government was ready to bring Chaudhary to the Parliament Secretariat. Dilli Malla, press advisor to the Speaker, told the Post that Mahara ‘coordinated’ the government’s initiative to allow Chaudhary to take the oath.

The MP, however, will remain in jail and have no role as a parliamentarian. Clause 244 (3) of the parliament regulations bars any lawmaker subjected to a judicial custody lasting more than three years from their duty and denies benefits as the people’s representative.

Although ruling parties defended the move, opposition parties and observers have termed the move as “illegal”. The Nepali Congress and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party have criticised the oath in strong words, saying that the government had agree to it fearing loss of support from the RJP-N.

Constitutional expert Bipin Adhikari said there was no legal ground for Chaudhary to take the oath. Presenting the cases of Khum Bahadur Khadka and JP Gupta, who lost their political careers after being convicted of criminal offences, Adhikari said the same applies to Chaudhary.

It was clear that Mahara set a wrong parliamentary precedent under the government’s pressure, Adhikari added, arguing that the Speaker should have have stood firmly against the oath.

Adhikari remarked that it was wrong on PM Oli’s part to  agree to the RJP-N’s illegal stand. “Oli has failed to realise that RJP-N is an opportunist party which can flip anytime.”

Minister for Information and Communication Technology Gokul Prasad Banskota, the government spokesman, told the media that the court, not the government, would decide Chaudhary’s fate. “We believe in the rule of law. Chaudhary will face action as decided by the court,” he said.

Published: 04-01-2019 06:27

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