10 Nepalis arrested from Darjeeling: Court extends judicial custody till March 2

Kathmandu, February 26

The chief judicial magistrate’s court in Darjeeling yesterday extended the judicial custody of 10 Nepali youths arrested from Darjeeling’s Kalpokhari last week for flying a drone till March 2.

India’s Sashastra Seema Bal personnel at Kalpokhari had arrested the Nepali nationals on February 16 after they found the boys flying drone at the international border near Pillar No 58/3 and 58/4 without proper documents and valid licence.

The court had on February 18 remanded the youths to a week in judicial custody. The case was forwarded to the forest department since the arrests were made from the area under the ambit of Singalila National Park. The forest department was supposed to produce the youths and investigation report before the court yesterday.

However, the department did not produce them before the court, but sought extension of judicial custody citing the need for more time to complete its investigation, according to Assistant Public Prosecutor Pankaj Prasad.

“The court then extended their judicial custody until March 2 as per the forest department’s request,” Prasad told THT over phone from Darjeeling.

The forest department acknowledged that their investigations were yet to be completed. Divisional Forest Officer Jiju Jaesper said they would submit their inquiry report to the court by March 2. “Only after the investigations can we ascertain what charges to be framed against the youths,” Jaesper told THT over phone from Darjeeling.

Nepal’s consulate general in Kolkata said they had been informed about the incident and a representative from the consulate was traveling to Darjeeling on Friday. “I will reach Darjeeling on Friday and study the charges framed against the youths. After that, we will launch the process of getting the Nepali youths released,” Satish Thapa, secretary at the consulate, told THT over phone from Kolkata.

However, Indian authorities are conducting investigations with the suspicion that the youths might be Chinese spies, said Bed Prasad Ghimire, father of one of the arrested Biswas of Arjun Dhara, Jhapa. “I visited Darjeeling yesterday expecting to meet my son, but I could not,” Ghimire told THT. “I was told that an investigation team from New Delhi would visit Darjeeling soon to probe the matter as the Indian authorities suspected the youths could be Chinese spies.”

Ghimire said Biswas and his friends were innocent. He said they had visited the place to make a video for YouTube targeting Visit Nepal 2020. “They unknowingly entered prohibited territory. That’s their only mistake. They are innocent,” Ghimire said. “I would like to request the government and the Nepali mission in New Delhi and Kolkata to help get my son and his friends released.”

Those arrested are Bigyan Gautam, 29, Biswas Ghimire, 25, of Arjun Dhara, Jhapa;  Nishchal Karki, 23, of Garamani, Jhapa; Devindra Sitoula, 28, Kamal Subedi, 23, Dipan Goutam, 23, Animesh Bhattarai, 24, of Birtamod, Jhapa;  Samay Rijal, 26, of Sitapaila, Kathmandu; Krishna Sapkota, 24, of Chitwan; and Subodh Tripati, 23, of Dhading.