Lawmakers demand death penalty for acid attackers, lawyers oppose

There is not a single country where stricter penalty has been successful in deterring criminals

Kathmandu, September 8

Lawmakers condemned acid attack on Muskan Khatun, a schoolgirl from Birgunj, and demanded death penalty for the perpetrators.

Samajwadi Party Nepal lawmaker Pradip Kumar Yadav, Nepali Congress lawmaker Uma Regmi and the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Pushpa Kumari Karna demanded death penalty for those responsible for throwing acid on people.

He said the Parliament should not hesitate to amend the constitution to ensure death penalty for acid attackers. He said one of the acid attackers was only 17-year-old and might be sent to correction centre if the provisions of the new penal code were applied, but authorities should ensure that the boy who committed such a serious crime was sent to jail for years.

Yadav said the Citizenship Act deemed a 16-year-old person an adult, while the new penal code deemed 17-year-old persons as juvenile.

Acid brings unimaginable physical and mental pain to a victim whose life never becomes normal and hence perpetrators must be awarded death penalty or they should be put in jail till death, he added.

NC lawmaker Uma Regmi condemned acid attack on Khatun and said the government should introduce death penalty in the national legal system to punish those who committed serious crimes against women and girls. “Even some democracies have retained the provision of death penalty for such offenders. Why is our government not bringing new legislation to introduce death penalty in our legal system?” she wondered.

Lawmaker Karna said laws should be amended to ensure death penalty for acid attackers.

Almost all the lawmakers who condemned acid attack on Muskan demanded free treatment for her.

Senior Advocate Satish Krishna Kharel told THT that reintroducing death penalty would be challenged in the court mainly because Nepal was a party to international instruments that had abolished death penalty and the country’s constitution also adhered to those instruments.

Kharel said the constitution had made fundamental features of the constitution unamendable. He said the Parliament would, however, have to amend other laws also to increase the penalty for acid attackers. “If the law is changed to impose 80-year jail sentence on acid attackers, but the provision that imposes 15-year jail term on murderers stays, then that won’t be wise. The House cannot change one law to increase penalty on acid attackers and leave other criminal laws as they are,” he said.

He added that the best way to deal with crimes was to address the root cause of crimes. Kharel said there was not a single country where stricter penalty had been successful in deterring criminals. He said moral education and anti-violence education should be given to people from an early age to deal with crimes.