Democracy is not just about elections, it is about electing righteous people who will work for the welfare of the people and the country

The Supreme Court’s refusal to release Resham Chaudhary, a lawmaker from the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, who faces charges of murder in the Kailali carnage that took place in August 2015, is most commendable, coming as it does just days after Chaudhary was taken to the Parliament Secretariat from Dillibazaar Jail and sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives by the Speaker.  Chaudhary, who was elected to Parliament from Kailali Constituency No. 1 in 2017, had moved the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn the order by the Dipayal High Court and Kailali District Court to send him to judicial custody.  The SC, however, has seen no reason to withdraw the order given by the lower courts to put him behind bars for the crime he committed. It is common knowledge that Chaudhary was sworn in on Thursday, while still facing criminal charges, under pressure from the RJP-N that had threatened to withdraw support to the Oli government. But the swearing-in has done considerable damage to the image of the government besides inviting a lot of questions. For instance, when someone has taken the oath of office and secrecy, why send him back to jail? Or is it morally and legally right for a person facing criminal charges to be sworn in as member of the Parliament even if he has won the election?

The Kailali bloodshed is a dark chapter in Nepal’s history, in which eight persons, including a senior superintendent of police and a two-year-old child were killed, during the Tharuhat uprising for a separate autonomous province for the predominant Tharu population. Chaudhary was the coordinator of the Tharuhat Struggle Committee at the time of the incident, and all evidences point to his involvement in the heinous crime. Chaudhary and 56 others face charges of murder, attempt to murder and robbery in the Kailali incident. Of them, 24 were sent to judicial custody in the Kailali district prison while the others are still at large.

Now that the Supreme Court has refused to set Chaudhary free, will the Parliament do a review of his swearing-in? As a gesture of its commitment to parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, the Speaker should annul the swearing-in and take back the official badge of MP. Failure to do so would set a bad precedent for similar cases. At the moment, Gandaki Provincial Assembly is in a dilemma as to whether to allow the swearing-in of Rajiv Gurung aka “Deepak Manange”, who was elected from Manang B. The Patan High Court had convicted Manange in a case of attempt to murder and sentenced him to five years in prison. With alleged criminals entering the Parliament and the provincial assemblies, it does not augur well for the image of the elected bodies and Nepal’s democracy. Democracy is not just about elections, it is about electing righteous people who will work for the welfare of the people and the country. In both the cases, the Election Commission is to be faulted for allowing such people with dubious backgrounds to contest the elections. The political parties also have the responsibility to put up figures with a clean image. Promises of good governance begin with the election of candidates with upright standing.

Saving daughters

Biratnagar Metropolitan City (BMC) has started an admirable job by handing over cash to those mothers giving birth to baby girls as the first and second child. The BMC has launched the “Save Girl, Educate Girl” campaign which is also becoming popular in almost all the municipalities in the Tarai region, where girls are still treated as the second sex. The BMC handed over Rs 3,000 to each of the 23 mothers who gave birth to a baby girl as their first child and Rs 25,000 to each of the four mothers who gave birth to a baby girl as the second child.

The cash incentive is to be deposited in bank accounts in the name of the newly-born baby girls. They can withdraw the cash after they attain 16 years of age. The “Save Girl, Educate Girl” drive was launched last year shortly after the local level elections. Reports from many rural and urban municipalities in the region suggest that the campaign has had a positive impact when it comes to protecting the daughters. The campaign, coupled with the cash incentive and other benefits, should help in preventing female foeticide. It will also encourage families to send their daughters to school. Saving a daughter will mean saving a family.