In any other country, a headline like ‘Murderers allowed to contest elections’ would belong in satire magazines. Not in Nepal. In fact, when the Supreme Court issued an interim order on Monday to shelve a writ petition against allowing candidates with moral turpitude from filing their candidacies, it scarcely raised eyebrows.
Fortunately, better sense prevailed and the Supreme Court late on Thursday overturned its previous ruling and asked the government and the Election Commission to bar murder convicts from contesting elections. The order will be valid until the final date of nominations of candidates which is scheduled for next week. The decision was issued by a three-member bench composed of Girish Chandra Lal, Sushila Karki, and Prakash Wasti.
The decision would bar candidates, especially from the UCPN(M), like Bal Krishna Dhungel who was convicted by the Supreme Court for the 2004 murder in Okhaldhunga of Ujjan Shrestha and sentenced to life imprisonment. Dhungel was later pardoned by a Maoist government and was set to contest the elections from Okhaldhunga in November. The earlier writ petition to allow convicted murderers and those accused of moral turpitude to contest elections was filed by former Attorney General Mukti Pradhan, who is close to Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai, and argued that the provision violated the fundamental right of a citizen to stand in elections.
Other candidacies like that of Maoist party spokesman Agni Sapkota, also accused but not yet tried for the murder of Arjun Lama in Dolakha could also be affected.
Civil rights groups had been protesting the Supreme Court order and picketing the Election Commission on Wednesday and Thursday (see picture). Nepal Bar Association said in a statement: ‘We welcome this decision and hope that this will encourage the families of the victims of war crimes and restore the confidence in the judiciary.’
Thursday’s ruling stated that Clause 19 (e) of an ordinance for elections to the Constituent Assembly did not violate provisions in the interim constitution.