The main question
Continuing abductions and disappearances and the failure of the state to deal effectively with these have made the security of Nepali citizens very vulnerable in their own country. Amid this, the unanimous passage yesterday of an amendment Bill to the Civil Code 1963 comes as some relief, as the Code now incorporates provisions to tackle the crime of abduction firmly. The punishment depends on the motive for abduction. Seven to 15 years in jail and a fine between Rs.50,000 and Rs.200,000 apply to abductions carried out with intent to commit murder, rape or have unnatural sex, to torture or injure a person, to trade in human beings, to force anybody into slavery, labour, prostitution or into surrendering their business, to demand a ransom, or to commit any illegal act. But any abduction with motives other than those mentioned above carries a sentence of four to eight years and a fine of Rs.25,000 to Rs.100,000.
There is some sort of consensus in the country on the need for tougher laws against abduction and disappearances. That realisation manifested itself in unanimity of decision in the parliament.
Indeed, the crime of kidnapping has reached alarming proportions not only in the districts but also in the capital city. That is a reflection of the extent to which the security situation has deteriorated. The Tarai presents a grim case. The new provisions can make a difference if these are strictly implemented. The amendment draws the same punishment for the giver of orders, consent, or encouragement for abduction as for the actual kidnapper. It also provides for a compensation of Rs.500 daily for the victim. The failure to share with the police any information one may have about anybody’s kidnap plot attracts half the punishment. In the case of an abduction of a child or a woman, the convict gets two years’ additional imprisonment. At the same time, the law wants to encourage kidnappers to surrender before the police get hold of them through a reduction in punishment.
Also in the offing is a special law that takes into account the acts of causing disappearances of persons after taking control of them. The high number of the disappeared has made Nepal one of the worst security-risk countries in the world for several years. Despite the agreement between the Maoists and the government on constituting a high-level commission, making the status of the disappeared known, and resolving the issue appropriately, not much progress has happened. Abductions and disappearances are closely related, because people are made to disappear after they are held. These are heinous crimes that no government with some respect for human rights and the rule of law can condone. It should also be admitted that while tougher laws make the task of controlling crime easier, what matters more is the will and courage of the state. The lack of this quality has rendered the security situation rather disappointing. This deficiency, unless rectified, can render the new provisions ineffectual, too.