Life sentence for Resham Chaudhary (Editorial)

Editorial

RJP-Nepal lawmaker from Kailali-1 Resham Chaudhary has been sentenced for life for his involvement in the Tikapur incident. A single bench of Parshuram Bhattarai of Kailali District Court slapped a life sentence on Chaudhary. Chaudhary is one of the main accused of the Tikpaur incident in which eight police personnel including an SSP of Nepal Police and a toddler were lynched on August 24, 2015.

He was at Dilli Bazar Jail after surrendering before the court on Kailali District Court on February 26, 2018. He was sworn in as House of Representatives (HoR) member on January 3 even as the case was sub judice. Chaudhary remained in judicial custody and was not allowed to attend the House meeting even after being sworn in. Chaudhary, who was absconding after the Kailali killings, had surrendered before the Kailali District Court on February 26, 2018.

Chaudhary had lodged the candidacy for federal parliament through an agent. He had won the election by a margin of around 19,000 votes securing 34,341 votes. The government had filed a case against Chaudhary in the Kaliali District Court considering him to be one of the main accused of the Tikpaur incident.

But in the meantime all those who believe in the rule of law must respect the verdict. The RJP-Nepal, Chaudhary’s party, denounced it, arguing that the Tikapur incident was purely ‘political’ and accusing the ruling parties of bias against the Tharu lawmaker. As the people of Kailali elected Chaudhary to the federal parliament, even after the police had filed a murder case against him, shouldn’t the public mandate be honored? In fact, one condition for the RJP-Nepal’s support to the Oli government was Chaudhary’s release from jail (which didn’t happen) and his swearing-in as an MP.

The sequence of events raises troubling questions. Why did the Election Commission accept Chaudhary’s candidacy even after a murder case was filed against him? Why wasn’t the investigation report of the Tika­pur incident made public? And why did the Oli gov­ernment swear in Chaudhary even when he was in jail, making it appear like it was a ‘political case’ all along? Now, what if Kailali and the rest of Madhes again erupts against the ‘unjust’ conviction?

The ruling parties have repeatedly scarified due process for convenience. For instance, with the rul­ing Nepal Communist Party’s near absolute hold on power, President Bidya Devi Bhandari ‘pardoned’ the murder-convict Balkrishna Dhungel. A question will naturally arise: If Dhungel can be pardoned, why can’t Chaudhary? The communist government has also run roughshod over the transitional justice process, by undercutting even the Supreme Court.

If the rule of law was inviolable and there were no double-standards in the treatment of those in power and those outside, Chaudhary’s would have been a more straightforward case. The politicians’ tendency to do what is convenient for them rather than what is right has eroded public faith in all state institutions. Allowing due process to take its natural course in this case would be the best way to restore some of that faith.

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