Nepal king escapes first law assault
Kathmandu | September 20, 2006 12:15:07 PM IST
Nearly three months after being stripped of his legal immunity, Nepal's King Gyanendra was threatened with the first lawsuit against him but got a reprieve when the contempt of court case was dismissed on technical grounds.
Earlier this week, Nepali lawyer Jitman Basnet filed a contempt of court suit against the king, seeking justice for being imprisoned illegally for over eight months in army barracks, infamous for the systematic torture of prisoners.
However, the monarch was saved from appearing in the docks by a bench of judges who rejected Basnet's suit Tuesday on a technical ground.
The judges said in his earlier habeas corpus petition, which secured his release, Basnet had not named the king. Therefore, he could not name the monarch in the new suit over the same issue.
Basnet was held in the Bhairavnath Battalion barracks, which according to rights organisations is responsible for the mass disappearance of prisoners suspected of being Maoist guerrillas or their sympathisers. Detainees were kept blindfolded throughout captivity with their hands tied. They were also subjected to ferocious beatings, sexual abuse and electric shocks.
While Basnet was detained illegally and his family sought his release, the army lied to the top court of the country, denying any knowledge of his arrest.
Now, after the fall of King Gyanendra's regime, the released lawyer asked the Supreme Court for compensation and maximum punishment for the army officials involved in his illegal detention.
Besides naming the then chief of the army, Gen Pyar Jung Thapa, who retired this month, Basnet also sought action against the king, who was the supreme commander of the army.
It was the first case against the 238-year-old crown that was earlier held to be above law.
But the royal reprieve could be only temporary.
A commission formed by the new government to bring to justice the abettors of the repressive royal regime is mulling action against the king, starting with questioning him about the excessive force used on demonstrators that resulted in the death of 21 people.
The king, who had seized power through a bloodless coup last year, became immensely unpopular after 15 months of direct rule, marked by repression, nepotism and profligacy.
It triggered a mass revolt that ended his reign in April and put a multi-party government in power. The new government initiated a series of measures to clip the powers of the king, including scrapping his legal immunity and making him answerable in court.
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