EDITORIAL: Do more homework

The proposed increases in jail term and other provisions have been made to make the criminal justice system in the country more effective

Parliament is considering a bill on penal code that seeks to replace the existing provisions in the Civil Code relating to the killing of one or more persons. The new bill proposes some changes to the existing provisions of the Civil Code which are said to be in keeping with the new times and realities, as well as with international standards. On murder, the bill identifies nine types of heinous crimes for which the convict has to serve a full jail term without any possibility of a Presidential pardon. These are concerned about cases of corruption; rape and attempt to rape; murder and attempt to murder; arms, ammunition and explosive materials; kidnapping and hostage-taking; national and public heritage; forest and wildlife; and narcotics. The bill proposes up to 30 years of life sentence generally, which is 50 percent more time than the stipulated time in the existing law, and until death for selected kinds of killings. The latter are: killing in a cruel manner; killing after hijacking a plane or blowing up explosives in a plan; killing after kidnapping and hostage-taking; killing by putting poison in publicly available drinks or food items; genocide or ethnic cleansing; or killing after rape.

Practices vary among countries regarding the kind of punishment for heinous and other crimes and also the period of jail sentence — ranging from death penalty (here, too, there are various kinds of permanently silencing the convict) to life imprisonment (till death or for a certain period of years) to lighter punishment for some of the crimes mentioned above. Nepal falls between these two extremes. Some of the people who have been associated with the drafting of the bill say that it has been made necessary by the need to make the penal laws compatible with international practices and to curb crime. Indeed, the proposed increases in jail term and other provisions have been made with the objective of making the criminal justice system in the country more effective.

Making the laws tougher for criminals may naturally be thought to mete out appropriate punishment to them and discourage any would-be criminals from even attempting such crimes. The maintenance of peace and security in society and promotion of freedom from fear of being killed for every citizen are indeed the objectives of any efforts to make the punishment tougher. But the question arises, will the making of tougher laws surely minimise killings of people in society? We can see countries where death penalty exists but where murders do not seem to be abating, as in South Asia. What will society benefit from making a convict continue to serve a jail sentence even when they become frail old persons? Perhaps the increases in the time of prison sentence proposed are a bit on the harsher side? There are many factors that come into the picture when the question of reduction of crime, and heinous crime at that, arises. All these factors and the experiences of other countries should be taken into full consideration before taking the plunge. This calls for more wider public discussions and more homework on the part of the authors of the bill.

Go solar

The country now is facing an unprecedented energy crunch. Since the use of fossil fuel is expensive we should explore alternative sources to meet our energy needs. Tapping solar energy though expensive at first could help in this. In the long run, the use of solar energy could meet the energy requirements as the supply of this form of energy is abundant. It has been decided to install solar lights along a 701-KM stretch of the roads in the municipalities and villages as well. It is expected that the solar street lights will eventually replace the halogen, CFL and the widely being used mercury-vapour lamps.

The government has already allocated a certain amount of money for the purpose of tapping solar energy in the budget of fiscal year 2015/2016. It is regrettable that solar energy is still not being taken seriously despite its vast potential. The power outages that are taking place now are outrageous, at present thirteen hours daily. The nation has not been able to generate enough energy on its own although it is possible if the matter is taken up with all seriousness. The government and private sector could do well to make the most of the available solar energy.