It is good news for all that the military court of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) has sentenced two of its soldiers to 10 years in jail for extorting money from civilians. The accused Private Ratna Thapa and Sergeant Indra Narayan Giri have been labelled “not eligible” for government service since they engaged themselves in an anti-social act. This is a positive step towards rebuilding the credibility of the RNA, lost in the course of its anti-insurgency operations over the years. Those army officials who violate social norms and disregard the civil and the military laws, for the protection of which they are there in the first place, should not be spared. Rather, the soldiers should understand that given the grave security situation facing the country, it is their duty to safeguard the country from becoming a lawless land. The court’s decision is, therefore, welcome. It is good for the country that the military court is getting active and is duly punishing those armymen judged “intentionally” involved in criminal activities. It would also be better for the RNA to weed out all sorts of malpractices like corruption from within.
However, only punishment as a tool of strengthening the institution is not enough. The RNA has not been able to stay clear of the charges of human rights violation such as carrying shootouts in school premises, and thus has been subjected to tremendous pressure from the human rights organisations. Though the RNA officials may have some practical difficulties, and even though it has been trying to maintain some transparency in its dealings, it has not been able to present a credible picture of its people-oriented activities. However, this is not to negate the confidentiality of the army operations, requiring a strategy in the larger national interest. But it would only help the RNA build its own credibility if it respected the people’s right to know what they ought to know. For this, the RNA should take the people into confidence. After all it is meant to serve the Nepali people. Also, as a legal institution of the country, it is important that the RNA functioned strictly within the parameter set by the constitution of the land. RNA should take an unbiased approach and further encourage transparency so that it “actually” secures its position in the Nepali mindset.