NEPAL President Bidhya Devi Bhandari released a former Maoist legislator serving a life term for murder on Monday, the country’s 11th Republic Day. Bhandari approved the Cabinet decision to pardon 816 convicts or undertrials for their “good behaviour”, but the pardon for Balkrishna Dhungel has triggered a furious debate across Nepal.
Dhungel was convicted by the Supreme Court of Nepal and received a life sentence for the murder of Ujjaini Kumar Shrestha — a “class enemy” — on June 24, 1998, in eastern Nepal’s Okhaldhunga district, during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
Prime Minister K P Oli, who leads the Communist Party of Nepal of which the Maoists are a part, has kept silent on the issue, despite fierce criticism from rights groups, media and politicians.
The Supreme Court of Nepal had issued instructions in 2016 that the government should not pardon any criminal without formulating clear policies and laws.
On Monday, the Supreme Court directed the government to furnish details regarding the preparations being made for Dhungel’s release, and had fixed 11 am Tuesday to take up the case. But the executive pre-empted the court by releasing Dhungel two hours before 11 am.
After his release, Dhungel headed straight to the Maoist party’s office and accused “dollar driven” rights groups of conspiring against the “people’s war”.