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NEPAL: Prominent activist arrested for contempt of court

NEPAL: Prominent activist arrested for contempt of court

Prominent activist Dr. Govinda K.C. was arrested for contempt of court on the evening of 8 January 2018. Prior to his arrest, he issued a press statement demanding the resignation of Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli, for reinstating Dr. Sashi Sharma as the Dean of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Dr. K.C. also accused Chief Justice Parajuli of being ‘corrupt’ and a ‘mafia don’, and undermining the judiciary. After his press statement, Dr. K.C. began his 14th hunger strike.

Hundreds of people from various walks of life came out onto the street against Dr. K.C.’s detention. They chanted slogans calling for his immediate release. There was huge public pressure, and the Supreme Court ordered his release on a general date in a contempt of court case on January 10, while calling for an investigation into the authenticity of citizenship document and education certificates of Chief Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli. Dr. K.C. has been ordered to appear before the court for the next hearing scheduled for February 20.

This is the first time that the judiciary has taken a liberal approach towards the accused even after admitting in court to criticizing the Chief Justice and his decision. Despite the fact that the allegations against Dr. K.C. were proved before the bench, he was released on a date for reappearing before the court. The court sought neither bail nor any personal guarantee for his release. The Supreme Court also accepted his demand for a probe into the Chief Justice's citizenship, and his academic certificates.

Dr. Govinda K.C. vowed to continue his fast-unto-death until the remaining demands in the purification campaign of medical education and judiciary are met.

Dr. K.C. has risked his life repeatedly to push for much-needed reforms in medical education. The anti-corruption crusader was arrested by the Nepal Police with what seems like a direct order from the court, without information passed to the government. This suggests that the judiciary has overstepped its jurisdiction. It therefore seems that not only are Nepal’s politicians using the police for their own whims, but the country’s judiciary is also engaging in power plays.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the government of Nepal and the Supreme Court to drop charges against Dr. Govinda K.C. for making healthy criticisms against the judiciary and seeking a probe against a tainted verdict. The allegations of forgery of citizenship certificate and education certificates must be investigated. The Chief Justice must step down in line with the popular demand of morality.

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