The arrest of Pradeep Jung Pandey, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) on March 17 in connection with a corruption case more than three decades old has raised several questions.
First things first. Pandey was found guilty of corruption by the Kathmandu District Court while serving as an employee at Nepal Water Supply Corporation during the Panchayat rule. So, the court on June 30, 1982 slapped a jail term of three years and a fine of Rs 5,000 on him. Accepting the court’s verdict, Pandey went to jail, but only to come out of it a year and some three months later with more than a year and nine months term still remaining. The first question is how did he get out without completing the jail term? As we all know, he did not break the jail. He simply walked out of it!
Pandey claims he received royal pardon for his remaining term and fine and that’s why he was freed. But as the latest Supreme Court decision makes it clear, he has failed to provide evidence to substantiate his claim. It is most likely that the papers including the royal pardon that he submitted to the jail authorities were forged. This proves that getting a royal pardon was not easy even for the influential Pandey family during the Panchayat regime, no matter how much we curse the system today.
The fact that Pandey had not served his full jail term came to the surface only after he announced his candidacy for the post of FNCCI President. No eyebrows were raised when he served two terms as FNCCI Vice-president earlier! FNCCI elections were held in April 2014 and Pandey was elected the president, defeating his rival Bhaskar Raj Rajkarnikar. The issue regarding Pandey’s ‘unfulfilled’ jail term became even stronger. Perhaps fearing a re-arrest, Pandey moved the Supreme Court (SC) on September 5, 2014. The SC issued an interim order against his arrest. In response, the Kathmandu District Court filed a petition on November 8, 2014 at the SC demanding it to revoke the interim order.
The apex court did so on March 17, 2015, leading to Pandey’s arrest by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police. While the arrest which took place within hours of the Supreme Court revoking its interim order seems to be a normal eventuality – the law of the land taking its normal course, the arrest episode has raised another question: why did the Kathmandu District Court not do anything during the FNCCI election campaign or when he was serving as vice-president of FNCCI? Why did everybody wait till Pandey was elected the FNCCI President?
After arresting Pandey, CIB chief DIG Hemanta Malla said the arrest was part of a campaign to hand over those sentenced by the court to the Court Order Implementation General Directorate. If that is the case, then are the police going to arrest everyone sentenced by the court of law? Can they arrest politicians who have already been slapped jail terms by the court? Can they arrest, for example, UCPN (Maoist) leader Bal Krishna Dhungel who was slapped a life sentence by the SC more than a couple of years ago? Dhungel is convicted of murder by the apex court. But the trend so far hints that the police cannot arrest him because Dhungel has political protection.
When will Nepal stop having different sets of rules for people from various walks of life? When will the law implementing agencies stop showing double-standard? When?