Conflict sees judiciary losing work

Donna MacAllister

Kathmandu, January 10:

Legal experts have expressed concern that the Maoist insurgency has the potential of stripping them of their work load as cases of murder, rape, robbery and land dispute are increasingly being dealt with by the parallel justice system set up by the Maoists in their strongholds.

According to a Supreme Court source, district courts in the hilly region are completely devoid of criminal cases due to the insurgency. Nineteen of the 75 district courts have less than 40 cases and four district courts, including Rolpa and Rukum, are left without a single case for hearing. However, Supreme Court Advocate, Anil Kumar Sinha, said the situation was “pathetic.” He predicted the unsustainability of his profession if law and order is not restored soon. He blamed lack of access to the justice system as the root cause of the problem and added that within two years there would be no legal cases left.

“The situation beyond the valley is really serious. Police are fearing for their lives. In many districts, they’ve vacated their posts leaving police stations totally empty which means that is is virtually impossible for a criminal case in a Maoist-dominated area to ever reach a court.” He said that people’s fear was extreme and a proper system of protection was imperative. President of Nepal Bar Association, Shambhu Thapa, said that no one was willing to address the real problems. He said that public faith in the judiciary could only be restored through the reinstatement of the House of Representatives. He added that the restoration of parliament, which was dissolved by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in May 2002, was the only way out of the current crisis. He termed those who are against the reinstatement “supporters of the military” and added that laws are being severely affected.

Former attorney general, Shushil Pant, agreed that the situation was “affecting the survival of the judiciary.” He said: “People just don’t have the time and energy anymore. Solving the Maoist problem is the only solution.” Meanwhile, experts felt that lack of foreign investment and financial transactions have vastly reduced investments and tax lawyers’ case loads along with crippling the country’s economy.