Nepal's prisons are overcrowded as many convicts serving less than three years for minor offences are also crammed there due to lack of corrective measures on the part of the government. According to worldwide practice, most offenders who have committed petty crimes are allowed to stay outside prison on parole or probation, by having them serve only a certain portion of their jail sentence. The main objective of the penal reform system is to bring correction in a person's behaviour so that s/he can lead a normal life in society and ensure that s/he does not commit yet another crime in the future. The penal reforms are also associated with liberal thinking with regard to minor crimes that do not pose a threat to the society. It will also help lessen the financial and administrative burden of the state, which, otherwise, will need to make a heavy investment in maintaining law and order in the society. The government could set up correction centres for the criminals involved in petty crimes or juvenile centres for the minors who may commit similar crimes. The sole objective of the state should be to make a person a decent citizen, not tag him or her as a criminal throughout life.
The government should take corrective measures to make improvements in the criminal justice system
With the changing times, Nepal has also made progress in the criminal justice system, although they are not adequate as per international standards. In 2017, the government enforced a new penal code, making provision for parole and probation with the aim of reforming the country's criminal justice system. In line with the penal code, the Supreme Court on August 3 last year ordered the government to make conditions and procedures to implement the new penal code's corrective measures within a month. But the government has yet to implement the court's order. A report from Lamjung states that there are many more jailbirds in the district prison than its carrying capacity as the state has not taken any reform measure in the criminal justice system. Many of them could have been granted parole or probation after serving a certain amount of time in jail.
In many liberal democratic countries, governments adopt measures to suspend sentences of convicts or waive some of their sentences on condition of good behaviour. In the modern criminal justice system, offenders of minor crimes such as drug abuse, sexual relation outside marriage and elopement before reaching the marriageable age, to name a few, can be granted parole or probation or other corrective measures adopted so that they can integrate into the society. But before making any reform in the criminal justice system, the government needs to build many rehabilitation and counselling centres across the country to keep the offenders of minor crimes as defined by the law. The government needs to allocate adequate funds to build such facilities, where the convicts can be placed along with provision of psychological counselling. Those types of people should also be imparted with life skills that can be useful for them to earn a decent living after they serve time in prison. It is possible for a person to commit a petty crime at a certain point of his or her life. But the state should offer them a chance for correction.
As Nepal's capital, Kathmandu deserves to be a much better place to live in than it is now. And it could have been were it not for the extreme pollution that has gripped the capital in recent years. The runaway urbanisation, with little regard for planning and resource management, is taking a toll on this beautiful city, making it unmanageable and uninhabitable.
Kathmandu's air quality is already among the worst in the world, and the Bagmati River that flows through the very heart of the city is an open sewer.
Then there is the constant problem of unpicked garbage, noise pollution and managing hazardous, chemical and industrial waste.
Against this backdrop, Kathmandu Metropolitan City's endeavor to rein in the growing pollution in the city through an environment law is highly welcome.
Under the 'KMC Environment and Natural Resources Protection Act-2021', legal action is to be taken against those who produce sound, heat, radioactive radiation, waste and wastewater in excess of the limits set by the government. The law applies to both individuals and organisations - hotels and restaurants, hospitals and industrial enterprises. We could see a cleaner Kathmandu very soon if the law is implemented strictly.
A version of this article appears in the print on February 23, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.