Impunity, perhaps, could be termed as a national identity of the modern day Nepal, or the ‘New Nepal’ as per the political catchphrase. Incessant instances of crimes and anarchy have found a new momentum due to this deeply entrenched phenomenon called impunity.
Take the shocking instance of the brutal murder of a college girl named Khyati Shrestha. No matter how shocking and hateful was the event, the discourse, condemnation and deliberation over the incident would eventually fizzle-out from our minds, like it has happened every time regarding other similar incidents in the past.
It’s only the matter of another such cold blooded murder or like would surface again, when the otherwise latent public sentiments would regain its valor and zeal to speak out with compassion and humanity, demanding for the ‘harshest’ punishment to the criminal and ‘real justice’ to the victim. But it would make some noise amid victims, media and common people, just to fade away after a few days of buzzwords and rage. This has been a ghastly custom among the Nepalis vis-à-vis almost every instance of similar crimes, as the criminals eventually happen to escape the punishment they deserve, while the public outcry would finally bury behind the corridors of their daily routine or their own common-life hardships.
The call for ‘End to Impunity’ would slowly lose its resonance and power, and what prevails finally is the impunity itself, besides the ignorance among masses on whether the criminals who were caught (or yet to be caught) were actually punished for their deed or not. The poor masses normally don’t even know what the actual punishment for certain crime is, as has been enshrined in our legal system. Let aside the low probability of any such legally documented punishments been put to practice. Thanks to the political interferences in many cases, and in some cases the illicit involvement of the security personnel themselves, playing its dirty part here. Thus, it’s understandable that why actually the people, concerning the latest case of Khyati’s murder, so vigorously demanded for the ‘death penalty.’
This is due to the deeply entrenched dissatisfaction among the common people themselves as they have repeatedly witnessed that their demand for justice got into the deaf ears. The impunity has thrived yesterday, so has today, and sadly people have begun to foresee no different outcome tomorrow as well. People are not sure whether the murderer in this case too would get the ‘harshest’ punishment he deserves. The matter to ponder here is what actually the ‘harshest enough punishment’ signifies, the term often mentioned in the media and by the legal pundits.
Taking the instance of the Khyati’s murder, would jailing the murderer for certain years, say to the maximum of ten years, be the ‘harshest enough punishment’? Worse is the probability that the murderer would not even get the full jail term. Glancing back at another instance of the murder of a child named Bibek Luintel of Koteshwor, have the people at least been informed what punishment the perpetrator/s in this case received? Moreover, have the actual criminal/s involved in the crime been identified and tried, at least? If we just stare back to the recent history, we find several incidents, painfully reminding us that how come the brutalities of such extents had gone unpunished, or insufficiently punished. Let alone the grievous instances of human rights violations at the time of the conflict (one glaring example is the Madi incident), the perpetrators of when, unfortunately, may never be brought to justice. Take the instance of the unfortunate deaths of three youths at Bhaktapur in a public lynching, in the suspicion of the youths being the kidnappers. A very unfortunate incident indeed.
However let’s also dig deep into the gloomy cause behind such regrettable incident. It’s a glaring example of the complete distrust of the people towards the law and its implementation. And it’s worrying that the distrust has begun to pile up among the people to the extent of producing such a perilous retort. Here the anger, which was in fact against the distrustful system of justice, did unreasonably victimize the innocent bystanders. The rage was so blind that caused the humanity and commonsense to take a back seat.
Earlier, constitutional lawyer Dr. Bhimarjun Acharya said, “we cannot argue for death penalty any more in this land.” His was definitely the argument derived from the legal reality of our country. But, does it mean that real justice has to be compromised merely on the ground of notional explanation we have enshrined in our legal system? Failing to implement laws has indeed its serious ramifications, which we are witness to. Graver is the reality that dirty political game is helping the impunity to thrive.
But one the other side, is the law itself adequate enough when it comes to punishing the most heinous of crimes, like intentional murders, which is able to satisfy the victims, their kin and even the common lots for their craving for justice? Worrying is the fact that the perpetrators of such heinous acts don’t fear the consequent punishment (if they get the punishment), as they seem to sense less severe consequence if killed the kidnapped person than by bearing the charges of kidnapping itself. The mere repetitive discourse over the terms like ‘rule of law’ or ‘law enforcement’ has been so monotonous, even outrageous for the people, moreover for the victims of crimes.
What the ‘logical’ arguers on such terms often fail to realize is that the people need concrete results, not sheer talks and promises. Realization should prevail that it becomes more painful to the victims and their closed ones who are drenched in grief, to realize that justice is too slow and weak to hope for. Their grief is bound to escalate when the justice becomes so elusive. This is the reason why the kith and kin, alongside many in public, have insisted for the provision of death penalty, regarding the latest case of Khyati.
Death penalty may have its strong supporters or dissenters, both with their own rational reasoning. Legal pundits may find argument for death penalty ‘baseless’ in the country’s present legal context. But does it justify that we could never have a punishment severe enough to the cold-blooded and premeditated murderer like Biren Shrestha, relevant to the enormity he committed? If not the death penalty, it would be reasonable to introduce the punishment like lifetime solitary confinement or something stern enough corresponding to the nature of the crimes like the one committed by Khyati’s murderer. Only if the law could provide justice in a real sense it could actually address the pain of the victims. Only then the people could have sense of security and have trust and respect for the rule of law.
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