KATHMANDU, May 19: In a controversial move, the government has decided to withdraw criminal cases brought against the leaders and cadres of the Madhes-based political parties who were are accused of involvement in the lynching of at least eight on-duty security personnel.
A cabinet meeting on Thursday decided to withdraw criminal charges against all protesters arrested during voilent agitations in the terai. More than 300 leaders and cadres of the agitating Madhes-based parties face charges in connection with multiple incidents of violence during the five month-long agitations in the terai, according to Madhesi leaders.
Talking to reporters following the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Surendra Karki, who is also spokesperson of the government, said that the Ministry of Law will initiate the process of withdrawing the cases.
The decision comes just three weeks ahead of the second phase of elections slated for June 14. Critics said that the decision, if put to effect, would be blatant violation of election code of conduct. The polls code of conduct restricts the government from taking any decision that could potentially impact polls outcomes.
The decision comes against the backdrop of renewed pressure from the Madhes-based parties, which have made “unconditional withdrawal of the criminal cases” one of the preconditions for their participation in the local elections.
Madhes-based parties including Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, Nepal Loktantrik Forum and Federal Socialist Party Nepal have long been demanding the unconditional release of their cadres who are currently in jail and the withdrawal of criminal charges against others. They claim that the cases were politically motivated.
“Withdrawing the criminal charge is important if there is to be a conducive environment for us to take part in the polls. The government should have withdrawn the charges long ago,” RJPN Co-chair Laxman Lal Karna told Republica. He said the agitating parties have submitted a complete list of people facing criminal charges related to the agitations.
Though the government had expressed its commitment to withdrawing the criminal charges 10 months ago, the process was stalled because of the sub-judice nature of the cases. In many instances, the Supreme Court quashed the government's decision to withdraw criminal charges.
There was also strong objection from the Nepal Police against any withdrawal of cases.
The police had categorically objected to the withdrawing charges against individuials arrested in connection with the lynching of seven police personnel and a toddler in Kailali in August 2015 and the murder of another policeman in Jaleshwar. More than 70 people have been charged in connection with the Kailali incident.
Home Ministry officials had suggested to the government to wait until the completion of the court trails. But the Madhesi leaders said there was no legal hurdle to withdrawing the cases.
“The government can withdraw the cases whenever it wants. There is no need to wait till the completion of the trails. All that's needed is political will,” said Karna.