Courts may withhold jail terms of less than a year

Kathmandu, December 8

A new law has empowered the concerned courts to withhold jail terms of less than a  year handed down to first-time offenders.

Section 24 of the Criminal Offences (Punishment Determination and Implementation) Bill, 2017, which will commence from mid-September 2018, says that if it is not appropriate to send such a person to jail due to his/her age, conduct and condition of offence, the court may withhold the jail sentence for a period not exceeding three years.

However, anyone convicted of murder, rape, human trafficking, possession of arms and ammunition, corruption, robbery, wildlife crime, drug smuggling, theft of ancient monument, among others, will not be eligible to enjoy this facility.

“The person whose jail sentence has been suspended shall do public service, assisting his/her victim in any work and keep staying in the place designated by the court. These conditions shall not be applicable in the case of minors,” the law states.

If the person violates the terms and conditions prescribed by the court, he/she shall be sent to the prison to do the time. The court may grant him/her exemption from the jail sentence after three years depending the conduct demonstrated by him/her during the period.

Similarly, any offender, who has been sentenced to up to six months in prison, may be ordered to perform community service instead of serving the jail sentence. However, the concerned court will take into account the nature and gravity of the offence, his/her age, conduct, circumstance of the offence and modus operandi of the crime before issuing such an order.

“It requires the court to take the consent of the offender before ordering him/her to perform community service,” it reads. According to the bill, community service is unpaid work by an offender for a civic or non-profit organisation, which includes hospital, old age homes, orphanage, public or community schools, institutions working for environment protection and sports training. While ordering the offender to perform community service, the court will have to fix the hours he/she should work daily, while prescribing its terms and conditions.

“If the offender performs community service for the period fixed by the court under the prescribed terms and conditions, he/she will be deemed to have done his time in jail. Probation or parole officer designated by the Probation or Parole Board will monitor and supervise his/her service during the period,” says the bill.