President Bidhya Devi Bhandari today granted amnesty to 531 convicts doing time in prisons across the country to mark Constitution Day.

A press statement issued by the Office of the President stated that the eligible jailbirds, including Harka Bahadur Rai and Kishor Bhandari aka Purna Bahadur, were pardoned in accordance with the Senior Citizens Act, 2006; the Criminal Code Act, 2017, the Criminal Offences (Punishment Determination and Implementation) Act, 2017; the Children's Act, 2018; the National Criminal Procedure (Code) Act, 2017 and the Supreme Court mandamus order of 3 August 2020, on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers.

The Office of the President said this decision would come into effect immediately. The convicts were also relieved of fine and principal amount to be paid to the state for the crimes they committed, in addition to the jail sentence handed down to them by various courts. Nepal has a tradition of granting amnesty to eligible prisoners to mark major festivals such as Dashain, Tihar, Republic Day, National Democracy Day and Constitution Day.

The government may recommend to the president waiver of the remaining 60 per cent jail term of prisoners, who have been convicted of small-time crimes and have already served at least 40 per cent of the sentence, provided that they demonstrate a good conduct in prisons. Similarly, up to 75 per cent of the remaining term of jailbirds, who are above 65 years, and have demonstrated good conduct, may be commuted.

However, those convicted of heinous crimes, including kidnapping and hostage-taking, rape, child molestation, human trafficking, murder, jailbreak, money laundering, offence against state, war crime, corruption and smuggling of drugs and wildlife body parts are not entitled to presidential amnesty in accordance with the existing laws.

Recently, the Department of Prison Management had forwarded a list of convicts deemed eligible for amnesty to the Ministry of Home Affairs, on the recommendation of the concerned jailers. Upon receiving the list, the MoHA had forwarded it to the Cabinet for its nod before seeking presidential approval. The amnesty policy aims to reduce pressure in overcrowded prisons and give an opportunity to small-time offenders to correct themselves. The country has 74 prisons in 72 of the total 77 districts.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 20 2021, of The Himalayan Times.