Republic Day pardon recommended for Balkrishna Dhungel

Kathmandu, May 21

Prison Office, Dillibazar, where former lawmaker of erstwhile CPN-Maoist Centre Balkrishna Dhungel is doing time in a murder case, has recommended waiving his remaining jail sentence.

Dhungel, who was imposed life term (20-year jail sentence)  in a murder case has already served more than eight years and meets criteria for waiver, said Jailer of Dillibazar Prison Office Arun Kumar Pokharel. He said his office had recommended to Kathmandu District Administration Office to waive the jail sentence of 26 inmates, including Dhungel. Pokharel said majority of the prisoners whose jail term was waived or commuted were convicted in murder cases.

Senior Advocate Satish Krishna Kharel said the government would have to determine how Dhungel was eligible for waiver.

“A murder convict can get waiver only if the murder was not committed in cruel and violent manner,” he said, adding, “As far as I know, in Dhungel’s case witnesses did not see him at the crime scene.”

Procedures relating to pardon, postponement, commutation and suspension of punishment list 23 heinous crimes in the negative list. They include corruption, rape, forgery of government documents, organised crime, arson attack with intention of killing somebody, crime against state, war crime, arms and ammunition crime, genocide, crime against humanity, drug offence, smuggling of drugs, cheating, hostage-taking and kidnapping, customs offence, wildlife crime and murder committed in cruel and violent manner with  extreme atrocities.

As far as commutation of jail sentence is concerned, Rule 29 of Prison Rules lists seven crimes that can’t be pardoned — rape, human trafficking, absconding from jail, smuggling, drug smuggling, corruption and spying.

DAO Kathmandu will have to forward the names to Department of Prisons which will send them to the Cabinet through the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs.

Director General of Department of Prisons Hari Prasad Mainali said his office had received recommendation for commutation of jail sentence of almost 1,000 inmates from across the country. He, however, did not say anything about Dhungel. “We are still selecting the names from among the recommended names,” he added.

Pokharel said inmates who had served 40 per cent of jail sentence and who had shown good conduct in the jail were eligible for commutation or waiver. If the Cabinet recommends Dhungel’s name for waiver, he may be released from prison on Republic Day which falls on May 29.

The government may recommend to the president to waiver of remaining jail term of prisoners, who have been convicted of small-time crime and have already served at least 40 per cent of the jail term, if they have demonstrated good conduct in prison.

Similarly, 75 per cent of the remaining term of jailbirds who are above 65 years of age and have demonstrated good conduct may be commuted.

Dhungel, who had been absconding since the Supreme Court upheld the district court’s verdict convicting him in a murder case, was arrested from his rented room in Satdobato, Lalitpur, on October 31 and sent to jail.  The Supreme Court had, in 2010, upheld Okhaldhunga District Court’s verdict convicting Dhungel for the 1998 murder of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha, a resident of Okhaldhunga.

He was awarded life term with confiscation of property.

The Okhaldhunga District Court had convicted Dhungel in 2004, but in 2006 Rajbiraj Appellate Court struck down the lower court’s verdict. The SC later struck down the appellate court’s verdict and upheld Okhaldhunga District Court’s verdict convicting him.