Despite criticism from various sections of the society, the government on Sunday presented a bill in Parliament that allows it to withdraw sub judice cases.
The Bill to Amend Some Nepal Acts has a provision that says “cases sub judice in any court against anyone from a party or a group which staged violent protests in the past but is carrying out its activities peacefully now, based on the constitution and the law, can be withdrawn”.
Through the bill, the government has added a sub-section to Section 116 of the Criminal Procedure Code which finally aims to withdraw cases from all tiers of the court—the Supreme Court, high courts and the district courts—against the political leaders.
Lawmakers from the Rastriya Swatantra Party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party strongly criticised the bill, which aims to revise 79 different Acts, including the code. Earlier, they had also registered a proposal to reject the bill from being presented in the House. However, it was tabled after a majority of the lawmakers agreed to present it.
The opposition lawmakers are particularly critical of Clause 64 of the bill that aims to revise the code. “Clause 64 tries to politicise the judiciary and snatch the victims’ right to justice guaranteed by the Constitution of Nepal. This is an encroachment of the duties, responsibilities and authority of the judiciary enshrined by the constitution,” remarked Sumana Shrestha, a Swatantra Party lawmaker, speaking in the Parliament. She urged the government not to present the bill.. “The bill aims to shield the political leaders and cadres who have committed heinous crimes,” pointed out Shrestha.
She, along with Sobita Gautam, another MP from the party, Gyanendra Shahi of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Prem Suwal of the Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party, had registered a notice, asking the government not to present the bill in the House.
While presenting the bill, law minister Dhanraj Gurung claimed that the provision was introduced to bring the political forces, who are in violent protests, into mainstream politics. “It doesn’t undermine the judiciary’s authority. Also, the bill could be revised through amendments, if necessary,” pointed out Gurung.
If the bill passes from the federal parliament and gets authenticated by the President, the government can withdraw all the cases against the leaders and cadres of the ruling CPN (Maoist Centre), the Madhesh-based parties and the CK Raut-led Janamat Party. While several Maoist Centre leaders have complaints against them in relation to the insurgency-era cases of human rights violations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also has directed the government to investigate the Janata Samajbadi Party chairman Upendra Yadav.
According to constitutional experts the provision contradicts the constitution. “This provision gives unrestrained discretionary power to the government to withdraw a criminal charge without the consent of the court concerned,” they argued.