As happens with every other government machinery in the country, Nepali judiciary too comes under a lot of flak. Over the past few years, there have been reports of district court judges accepting payments for lenient ruling; these days the media is abuzz with the judiciary’s (alleged) meddling in politics. But perhaps the most discussed aspect of our judiciary is how even simple court cases seem to drag on and on, for years on end. Turns out, the justice delivery system in the ‘developed’ countries is little better. In 2009, 54-year-old James Bain was released from a Florida prison after spending three decades in the slammer for the alleged kidnap and rape of a nine-year-old boy in 1974. Bain was released when DNA testing revealed that the fluid samples found on the boy didn’t match his. “I’m not angry,” were Bain’s first words on his release. He had every right to be.
So does 45-year-old Govinda Prasad Mainali, the Nepali national being released from a Tokyo prison after being incarcerated for 15 years for a 1997 murder. Mainali was convicted of taking the life of Yasuko Watanabe, a 39-year-old Japanese woman in Tokyo; apparently, the strongest evidence against Mainali was that he had a key to the apartment where Watanbe’s body was found. Now, DNA testing reveals the semen sample collected from inside the woman’s body was not Mainali’s. The Japanese press has justifiably made much hue and cry about the innocent punishment of a foreign national for the murder of a woman who was, they have emphasized, a businesswoman by the day and a prostitute by the night. The most sordid aspect of the whole affair is that Mainali had been acquitted of all charges by Tokyo District Court in 2000, yet had to remain behind bars when the Supreme Court upheld his conviction on circumstantial evidence.
All this time, Mainali’s family, including his wife and two young daughters, have had to live under harrowing circumstances. According to the family, following Goviinda’s conviction, the society started ostracizing the family of a ‘murderer’. The family’s constant back and forth between Nepal and Japan seeking redress could not have been easy either. As things stand, the Tokyo High Court has only ordered a ‘retrial’ and Mainali has not been completely exonerated of the alleged crimes. But close watchers of Japanese judiciary believe the retrial verdict as good as sets Mainali free.
If indeed he has been wrongly convicted and as a result has been forced to waste 15 of his most productive years in jail, the Mainali family has every right to seek compensations. It also appears that Mainali was a victim of stereotyping as the earlier judge seems to have assumed that since he was a poor man looking for a job in Japan, he must have killed for money. We are happy that Govinda Prasad Mainali will come back home a free man. But we would also like to see the circumstances surrounding the 15-year-long case thoroughly investigated and the aggrieved side adequately compensated