Nepal | October 18, 2019

Judgment execution dismal

Ram Kumar Kamat

Accumulated prison sentence 103,842 years, fines to be collected Rs 11.89bn

Kathmandu, September 22

Although the judiciary has launched special campaign to enforce judgments, particularly to nab absconding convicts and
collect fines from judgment debtors, the efforts haven’t amounted to much.

Data from Judgment Enforcement Directorate reveals that the total years of prison sentences to be served by convicts accumulated to 103,842 years and total amount of fines to be collected from them amounted to Rs 11.89 billion till mid-July when the last fiscal ended.

There are 124,048 absconding convicts of which 1,666 are foreigners.

According to JED Director Shiva Kumar Pokharel, in the fiscal year that ended in mid-July 2018, nabbed absconding offenders served 20.28 per cent jail term and judgment debtors paid 17 per cent fines. These figures improved slightly in the fiscal that ended in mid-July 2019, with arrested absconding convicts serving 33.5 per cent jail term and collection of fines from judgment debtors rising to 24.79 per cent.

“The country can build a small hydel project if it collects all the fines that judgment debtors owe,” Pokharel argued.

As per Rule 97 of the District Court Regulations, courts can  write to service provider offices, including local levels and police offices, telling them to bar services to absconding convicts and judgment debtors, but the courts have failed to implement this provision effectively.

JED Director Pokharel said if district administration offices refused to issue citizenship certificates and passports to judgment debtors and absconding convicts, that could go a long way in executing court judgments.

According to Pokharel, manual record keeping of judgment debtors and absconding convicts was obstructing implementation of court verdicts. He said his office would soon prepare digital data of absconding convicts and judgment debtors, which would help the office execute judgment.

Senior Advocate Satish Krishna Kharel said it was almost impossible to arrest absconding foreign offenders due to complicated legal procedures. He held Nepal’s faulty penal system responsible for accumulation of fines.

“In financial crimes and less serious crimes, the penal system should first aim to provide reparation to victims, but our system focuses on fines. Judgment debtors should be made to pay reparation to victims of financial and less serious crimes first, then the fines. Victims can always follow up on collecting reparation,” he said and added that government bodies were following due process while collecting fines.

A lawyer preferring anonymity, said that court officials blundered while granting bail to defendants against cheap collateral and this had led to accumulation of fines. “Land plots that defendants mortgage for getting bail are very cheap. The court cannot recover fines imposed on a particular defendant even if it auctions the land,” the lawyer said.

Chairman of Constitutional Lawyers Forum Raju Prasad Chapagai said lack of coordination between the offices concerned had also led to the JED’s failure to execute court judgments.

“Justice sector coordination committees that exist in all tiers of the court and the OAG should play proactive role to enforce judgment,” he said.

The judiciary has launched a special campaign in 24 districts, including most Tarai districts, to expedite judgment where the years of jail sentences to be served by convicts and the amount of fines to be collected from judgment debtors are high.

JED launched special campaign to execute judgments on 18 October 2014 in 16 districts in the first phase. The campaign was then extended to eight more districts on 15 December 2016.

A version of this article appears in print on September 29, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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