Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Too long in prison

Dhankuta resident Padma Maya Gurung was released from prison last week after spending six extra years behind bars due to the carelessness of the justice department. Her daughter also spent three of those years with her in prison with her.

In 1990 (2048), Padma Maya Gurung was raped while on her way back home after collecting fodder in the forest. She became pregnant as a result of the rape. A few days after the baby was born, she killed it by burying it. The court in Dhankuta sentenced Gurung to life imprisonment, but the Biratnagar Court of Appeals overturned the decision and sentenced Gurung to ten years of imprisonment.

Three years later in 1993, the Supreme Court sentenced Gurung to five years of imprisonment showing the reasons that she was compelled to kill the baby. According to the judgement, Gurung should have been free by 1995. But there was a delay in the papers from the Supreme Court reaching the Dhankuta and Biratnagar courts, and Padma Maya spent six extra years in prison.

A human rights group in Kathmandu has exposed the injustice suffered by Padma Maya owing to the carelessness of the courts and has demanded that she receive compensation, and that the guilty be punished. Padma Maya, who is illiterate, has not appealed to any sector so far. Sindhunath Pyakurel, president of the Nepal Bar Association, says Padma Maya had to spend six extra years in jail because of the failure of Supreme Court judges and the judicial system to follow-up on whether judgements have been implemented. "There has to be an investigation and the guilty must be punished," he said. The joint bench of justices Uday Raj Upadhyaya and Kedar Bahadur Neupane decided Padma Maya's case. Both have since retired.

At a recent function organised by the Manav Adhikar Tatha Shanti Samaj, lawyer Tikaram Bhattarai said that the chief justice at the Court of Appeals was to be blamed. "It is their duty to inspect the jails and monitor whether inmates have served their term, and are entitled to be freed," he said. Human Rights Commission member Indira Rana says that it is not unusual for inmates to spend a few extra months in prison even after the term of their sentence, but that six years was an exceptional occurrence.

Secretary of the Judicial Council Kashi Raj Dahal has acknowledged the flaws in this case. He says that the delay in the judicial system is due to the traditional processes followed by the courts. There are provisions for punishing those who delay the implementation of a judgement. Human rights activists have warned that they will organise demonstrations to ensure that Padma Maya is compensated by the state for the six extra years and mental torture she endured in prison.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)