Sunday, 19 September, 2021

No To Gender Based Violence

Namrata Sharma


Muscle, money and mafia lead to power corruption. Observing Ranjan Koirala, the once Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police of the Armed Police Force of Nepal walking out of prison waving to the camera, dressed impeccable with a hairstyle like he was going to a disco, my heart sank, and anger welled up. Koirala was serving sentence for murdering his wife in one of the most insane style that is possible. Now he walked out as though he was being released after leading a peoples’ revolution! This is a vision that has been etched in my mind as an epitome of human atrocity possible.
One who had been entrusted the protection of the citizens of Nepal, had been convicted to having killed someone who had entrusted her life to him by wedding him and giving birth to two sons. After a full investigation it had been proved that he had actually done a premeditated murder planning every step and hiding his trails to protect himself. But, because of the proper, honest and thorough investigation of Nepal Police and the Investigation Bureau his crime was exposed and he was put in jail sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife Geeta Dhakal.
However, he walked out of jail on July 23, 2020 after serving only eight-and-half years, as a division bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana and Justice Tej Bahadur KC ended his sentence on June 29, invoking Section 188 of Court Management of erstwhile Civil Code (Muluki Ain) and Section 17 (a) of Criminal Offence (Determination of Punishment and Implementation) Act, 2017. Ranjan Koirala had been put in jail on 22 January 2012, the day he was arrested on charge of murdering his wife Geeta Dhakal. He had killed her at their Budhanilkantha residence, then took her body to Tistung in Makawanpur district and burnt it to destroy evidence.

Controversial decision
Kathmandu District Court heard the case for two-and-half years and held Koirala guilty of murdering his wife, condemning him to life imprisonment with confiscation of his entire property. On appeal, Patan Appellate Court upheld this verdict. Now On June 29, 2020, eight-and-half years after the incident, the Supreme Court controversially commuted his sentence by 11 years saying that he had to look after his motherless children. The court also controversially returned his property.
I remember how this incident had created uproar among the general public in 2012 and women’s rights organisations and human rights activists had raised voice against the culprit. I want to note here, how the then investigating officers especially Rajendra Shrestha, the Superintendent of Police at Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, had done a spectacular job in doing an impartial investigation to find the truth and give justice to the victim, even though the then accused was a very senior police officer with all the muscle, mafia and money behind him. Rajendra Shrestha himself was Koirala’s batch mate and friend, but he left no stone unturned to unravel the truth and give justice to the woman who had faced one of the worst cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
However, on 23rd July seeing Koirala walk out of jail as though he had done nothing, majority of the Nepali people are outraged and protests commenced immediately outside the Supreme Court and on social media. His girl-friend was waiting outside the jail to welcome him, but there were no signs of his two sons for whom the verdict says he was released.
The judiciary system has ample places to make sure that no innocent person gets unjustly convicted, says Advocate Sudha Kafle. She added that the legal system in Nepal too could revisit decisions if evidence was there that s/he had been unjustly acquitted. However, in this case Kafle said that Koirala had been proved to have done a pre-calculated murder and all were surprised with this latest development. Now that the Office of the Attorney General on the same day filed a petition at the Supreme Court seeking a review of the decision, she hoped Geeta Dhakal would again get her justice. The Supreme Court on 26th July 2020 has granted approval to this review. The Office of the Attorney General had filed a review petition, amid mounting pressure from the public to impeach Chief Justice Rana and Justice KC.
Zero tolerance against GBV
What is the message here? There have been several cases in Nepal where women have been victims of GBV and have not received justice. In the case of Geeta Dhakal, a landmark decision showed that Nepali Courts did give fair and just decision favouring the victims and survivors of GBV. Now all of a sudden a reverse has happened. Are women to feel more and more insecure in Nepal? Why are the two sons of Geeta Dhakal, being raised now in their maternal homes and who have both entered their twenties, subjected to hearing news about their ill-famed father and wrong allegations related to their deceased mother? In fact isn’t this a torture to the growth of the children that the release of their convicted father has allowed him to go back to the arms of his beloved and access the property again?
It is now time to show that the judicial system will respect the zero tolerance policy of Nepal Government against GBV by giving full justice to Geeta Dhakal and her sons and prove that when wrong decisions are made by the court it can be revised in favour of the victims and survivors.

(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate. Twitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)