Kathmandu, January 22
Lawyers say police are misusing Section 118 of the new penal code to file cases of indecent behaviour against people.
Senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi said the indecent behaviour clause of the new penal code was to be used in good faith, but police were misusing the legal provision to target critics of the government and this gave undue advantage to some people who had committed serious offences.
He said the arrest warrant against pop singer Astha Raut on the charge of indecent behaviour against a police officer at Tribhuvan International Airport was a glaring example of how police were misusing the clause. “Government authorities should not have issued an arrest warrant against Raut. At times a citizen may react angrily to a government employee or police officer, but the state must maintain restraint unless s/he physically assaults the government employee or police,” Tripathi said.
Kathmandu police recently arrested 122 Chinese nationals for alleged involvement in cyber crime, but later invoked indecent behaviour clause against them without investigation. “Police acted under Chinese pressure to indict the Chinese nationals under the indecent behaviour clause. This was also abuse of law because police were supposed to indict them under cyber crime laws,” Tripathi said and added that deportation of the Chinese nationals had deprived the authorities of opportunity to investigate the kind of crimes the Chinese nationals had committed.
“Cyber security is linked with national security. We do not know how much harm those Chinese nationals caused in Nepal and what they could do against our national interest in future,” Tripathi said.
Another senior advocate Yadunath Khanal said, “We need indecent behaviour clause to maintain peace and order, but that does not mean police should invoke the clause when it does not find any legal ground to harass somebody,” he added.
Advocate Om Prakash Aryal said slapping criminal charge against Astha Raut had set a bad precedent that would scare ordinary citizens from engaging in arguments with government employees and security personnel. “Our service delivery system is very poor and we have to fight against the delaying tactics in government offices and employees’ inefficiency. If indecent behaviour clause is invoked easily, no citizen can raise their voice against any government employee,” he argued. Aryal said misuse of the clause could curtail freedom of expression. “Sometimes we have to name and shame government employees to make them accountable. If indecent behaviour clause is invoked easily, the public cannot name and shame government employees,” he argued.
Aryal said invoking the clause against people for minor offence was against Section 27 of the new penal code that stipulated that minor harm and loss caused by somebody should not be treated as an offence.
Kathmandu police had invoked indecent behaviour clause against some people who protested during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Nepal visit in October.
A version of this article appears in print on January 23, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.