EDITORIAL: A travesty of justice

It is surprising to note that the KDC did not deem it necessary to look into other details of attempt to rape submitted by the police

After languishing in police custody and Dillibazar prison for 133 days, former speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara walked free on Monday following acquittal by the Kathmandu District Court (KDC) on charges of attempt to rape a staffer of the Parliament Secretariat. The KDC gave him the clean-chit, citing lack of sufficient evidence to prove the charge leveled against Mahara, who till his imprisonment, was a close confidante of Nepal Communist Party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. KDC Judge Ambar Raj Poudel took the decision to acquit him, citing that his ‘no-guilty plea’ was corroborated by the accuser, who, in her deposition, told the court that he was innocent. Earlier, the Patan High Court had told the KDC to adjudicate the case within a month. The KDC passed its verdict in favour of the accused, based mainly on the forensic report which stated it could not establish for sure that the accused had reached her room as the impression of his fingerprints on a glass of whisky and other items could not be analysed. However, the court did not take other clues uncovered at the crime scene, such as a broken frame of specs, statements recorded by his security aides, information obtained in the police control room, mobile message, bruises on the victim’s face and health check-up report as evidences to prove him guilty.

In a video interview with hamrokura.com on September 30, the victim had said Mahara visited her room on September 29 without her approval, forced her to drink whisky he had brought and thrashed her before attempting to rape her. However, she retracted her earlier statement with another online portal. She even told the court that she was forced by the police to file an FIR against Mahara on October 4. Her retraction emboldened the case in favour of Mahara. Nor did the court take any legal action against the accuser for retracting her statement. However, the Kathmandu District Government Attorney’s Office is all prepared to appeal at the High Court against the KDC ruling.

Mahara resigned as the speaker on October 1 last year, but not as lawmaker, after the ruling NCP forced him to do so. As he has come clean, he may join the House meeting anytime soon after the Parliament Secretariat received a letter from the KDC to this effect. But the question is: Does he have the morale to take a seat in the front row of the ruling party bench with his head raised high? Although he has been acquitted this time, the High Court and the Supreme Court, which has the power to make a final review of a lower court verdict, could still find him guilty in this case as the KDC has grossly overlooked other evidences submitted by the police. The recent instance is the apex court’s ruling on November 18 last year, quashing the Mahendranagar High Court verdict that gave a clean chit to two persons found guilty by the Baitadi District Court of gang-raping a girl in 2012. The Patan High Court and the Supreme Court may take the statements of Mahara’s security aides, mobile text messages, information received at the police control room and the first FIR lodged by the victim seriously and may quash the KDC verdict in their reviews. Until then, Mahara is a free man, but with a tarnished image.

Wires go underground

The capital badly needs a facelift, and Nepal Electricity Authority’s bid to lay electricity cables underground should help greatly. The Rs 7 billion project began on Monday to transfer cables underground in areas covered by the Maharajgunj and Ratnapark Distribution Centres. Besides doing away with the eyesore, the project is also expected to reduce the risk of accidents caused by electric shocks and automate the distribution system in Kathmandu. It will involve laying 200 km of 11,000 voltage cables and 400 km of 400 voltage cables underground. Simultaneously, other companies will lay 200 km of optical fibre cables in the two areas.

The project has, however, raised concerns if Kathmandu’s roads are not in for more digging and more dust. But it’s good to know that horizontal directional drilling is being introduced that will not require roads to be dug as during the laying of pipes for the Melamchi project. When the project completes in about 20 months, we expect to see the eyesore caused by a jumble of electricity wires and other cables largely gone. The authorities must see to it that no new cables of TV or internet come up in those areas.