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Bansbari land probe: Arun Chaudhary, two others freed on general date

Bansbari land probe: Arun Chaudhary, two others freed on general date

Three people accused of involvement in a land scam, including Arun Kumar Chaudhary, a magnate with links to Nepal’s leading conglomerate, walked free on a court date on Wednesday after the Kathmandu district court ruled that there was no need to keep them in custody for a prolonged period for investigating the scam. 

The scam, the latest in a series of high-profile cases that have rocked a corruption-plagued polity, involves the transfer of ownership of 10 ropanis of land belonging to the government-owned Bansbari leather and shoe factory limited during its privatization in the 1990’s. 

Police set the three—Chaudhary, the then executive chair of the factory Ajit Narayan Singh Thapa and proprietor of CG Chandbagh Residency (P) Ltd Sanjaya Thakur—after a bench of judge Yagya Prasad Acharya ordered their release barely a week after their arrest in response to a case from Nepal Police’s Central Investigation Bureau. The bench reasoned that there was no need to keep the three in custody for 25 days for investigating the case. 

Article 15 of the civil code provisions that the investigating officer can release a suspect from custody on general date or on bail with consent from the government attorney if there is ‘no need to keep the individual in custody’.  

Immediately after the arrest, Chaudhary was admitted to Chirayu Hospital in Maharajgunj after developing ‘health complications’ and then transferred to Grande Hospital in Dhapasi overnight on referral. 

Right after arresting Chaudhary and two others in connection with the scam, rumors were rife that CIB was under constant pressure to conduct a prompt investigation and submit the case file to the government attorney’s office. 

Paradoxically, the court ruling appears to have substantiated these rumors. This does not bode well for the polity at a time when the two other organs of the state (the executive and the legislature), reeling under a series of scams like the Bhutanese refugee scam, Lalita Niwas land-grab and the 60-kg gold smuggling case, have largely been unable to take the cases to their logical conclusion by bringing the guilty to justice.

“Existing legal provisions have no provisions on the release of individuals accused in cases of serious nature. They do not allow the court to release someone involved in cases likely to lead to jail-term of up to three years on bail or on general date,” Advocate Ananta Raj Luitel says. “The laws have not granted the benches the authority to issue judgments in a manner they think fit by ignoring factors like precedents, legal provisions and the seriousness of the offense.”

“The single bench’s ruling in the case involving Arun Chaudhary and two others has given an impression that the rich and the powerful enjoy preferential treatment in this country with regard to justice dispensation,” he adds, “This kind of negative impression won’t serve the judiciary. It’s time for the judiciary to bear in mind that rulings like these will cause the public to lose faith in a vital organ of the state.”