EDITORIAL: Belated action

In 2016, the Judgment Implementation Directorate of the SC had also written to the Nepal Police to execute the verdict, but the police never responded

Former Constituent Assembly member and leader of the CPN-Maoist Centre Balkrishna Dhungel who was convicted by the Supreme Court in 2010 on charges of killing CPN-UML’s Ujjan Kumar Shrestha of Okhaldhunga, was arrested by police on Tuesday and sent to jail to serve the remaining sentence. Dhungel, 48, has already served seven years in jail on the same charge and he will have to spend 12 years, five months and 22 days in jail. Following the Supreme Court’s review of the Rajbiraj Appellate Court’s verdict, which acquitted Dhungel on killing Shrestha, he had been leading a semi-underground life in and out of the capital. Earlier, the apex had ordered the police department to use its entire mechanism and resources to arrest the convict and produce him before the court of law within seven days and submit a report to it. Police had to arrest the former lawmaker after a lawyer representing the victim’s side filed another contempt of court case at the apex court against IGP Prakash Aryal demanding that the court order be implemented. He was arrested eight years after his acquittal by the Rajbiraj Appellate Court. The Okhaldhunga District Court had found him guilty of murdering Shrestha in a cold blooded manner and sentenced him for life (20 years) along with confiscation of his property.

Despite the apex court’s order to arrest him and produce before the court of law, the government and the police department had not shown any willingness to respect the court’s order. He was seen attending public functions under the nose of law enforcement agencies. It may be recalled that the then prime minister Baburam Bhattarai in 2011 had recommended Dhungel for presidential amnesty saying that the case was part of the decade-long Maoist conflict which was supposed to be settled by the transitional justice system enacted by the government as per the Comprehensive Peace Accord. But the apex court turned down the amnesty proposal forwarded by the government to the president.

Earlier in 2016, the Judgment Implementation Directorate of the SC had also written to the Nepal Police to execute the verdict, but the police never responded to the letter, letting the convict move freely. Dhungel even challenged the apex court to arrest him. Immediately after Dhungel’s arrest, the CPN-Maoist Centre issued a statement and condemned the move saying that it was violation of the peace process. But the legal fraternity and international community have welcomed the government decision to arrest Dhungel though it was a belated action. Shrestha’s murder was not related to conflict as has been claimed by his party. He was killed in a premeditated manner to take revenge. Dhungel’s accomplice, Pushkar Gautam who was on the run for several years, is serving the jail sentence for life as per the apex court verdict. There are many persons including those involved in Maina Sunar’s murder and convicted by the final court of law still absconding. The law enforcement body should launch a manhunt for their arrest to execute the court’s verdict. People will lose faith on the court if its verdicts are not executed. The rule of law must prevail to all, no matter who they may be.

Prevent conflict

Ways to avert wildlife-human conflict have to be devised and implemented. There are many cases of wildlife straying into human settlements and killing and injuring many humans. In order to save precious human lives the building of walls is being mooted in order to prevent wildlife from entering human settlements, scaring the local people and harming them.

Meanwhile, crimes related to wildlife should be taken up seriously by the authorities.  Those involved in such crimes should be provided the harshest possible treatment taking into account that many wildlife are on the brink of disappearing. Despite the arrangements of tight security the poachers manage to kill the wildlife as their body parts are in high demand in many countries. Conservation of wildlife should be a matter of priority, and it should be taken up seriously. Merely building of walls is not sufficient but there is a need to raise awareness among all about the importance of wildlife. If we do not act now chances are the situation could get worse with both humans and wildlife suffering.