On August 3, the Supreme Court ordered the government to prepare conditions and procedures to implement the new penal code's corrective measures for prisoners within a month, but the order remains unimplemented.

The SC, which passed a directive in response to a case filed by Gopal Siwakoti Chintan, had asked the government to appoint parole and probation officers within a month, but that order also remains unimplemented.

The new penal code enforced in 2017 provisioned for parole and probation with the aim of reforming the country's criminal justice system.

Parole and probation are privileges granted to convicts, mainly those convicted for minor crimes, to let them avoid going to prison or serve only a portion of their sentence.

Executive Director of Public Defender Society of Nepal Ajay Shankar Jha told THT that the government lacked willpower to implement the corrective measures introduced in the new penal code. He said the second amendment made to the Prison Act in 2007 introduced some of the corrective measures, but those provisions were also never implemented.

"Governments around the world adopt two approaches visà-vis convicts. In serious crimes, the government wants to isolate criminals -- in some cases incarcerate them till their death. But in minor crimes, the government adopts measures to suspend sentences of convicts or waive some of their sentences on condition of good behaviour," said Jha.

He said in modern criminal justice system, the concepts of parole, probation, community service, and open jail were meant to reform convicts and prepare them for integration into the society before they complete their sentence.

Granting parole and probation to those who are convicted on technical grounds makes sense, he said.

He cited the example of youngsters who elope. "People aged 18 and above can have intercourse, but our law prohibits people below the age of 20 from getting married. Underage lovers often elope and their parents often file cases against the boys under Child Marriage Act," Jha added.

He also cited the case of drug abusers. Jha said many countries around the world were of the view that drug abusers should be sent to corrective homes, not jail.

"If we can use parole, probation, and other corrective measures against drug abusers, then that could serve the purpose of law," he said.

Information Officer of the Department of Prison Debarsi Sapkota said the Ministry of Home Affairs had drafted the procedure following the SC order, but due to the current political situation further work on the procedure remained stalled. He said the Office of the Attorney General needed to draft relevant directives, but it had not done so yet.

"Investment in resources is at the core of this issue. Enforcing provisions related to parole and probation means many convicts will have to be put in rehabilitation centres and homes meant for senior citizens. The government has not prepared those centres yet," a home ministry official said.

Attorney General Agni Prasad Kharel said at a public programme today that his office would focus on the enforcement of corrective measures, including the provisions related to parole and probation within this year. He told THT that if his office got enough budget, it could enforce the provisions within one year, but his office's effort would depend on how much budget it got from the government.

"A lot of preparations will have to be made. We will have to appoint parole and probation officers and train other staff as well.

We will have to upgrade prisons to implement the provisions related to open prison," Kharel said. To implement open prison concept, the government will also have to ensure that there are factories around prisons where the prisoners are allowed to work during the day, he added.

Kharel said implementation of provisions related to corrective measures will also reduce overcrowding of prisons across the country. Nepal's prisons have capacity for only up to 18,000 prisoners, but there are 24,600 prisoners across the country.

"Govt lacks willpower to enforce provisions related to parole, probation "

A version of this article appears in the print on February 22, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.