Action against Chand outfit—but how and under which laws?The government’s decision to crack down on the Communist Party of Nepal, led by Netra Bikram Chand, and its activities is marred by ambiguities and experts say the move was made on the basis of assumptions rather than realistic assessment and that instructions to initiate action against the group lack clarity.
The government’s decision to crack down on the Communist Party of Nepal, led by Netra Bikram Chand, and its activities is marred by ambiguities and experts say the move was made on the basis of assumptions rather than realistic assessment and that instructions to initiate action against the group lack clarity.
The government on March 12 said it had branded the Chand party as a criminal outfit and decided to “ban” its activities, but a statement by the Ministry of Information and Communications on March 14 said the government would “take action” against the outfit as per the “existing laws” declaring them a “criminal and destructive group”. It stopped short of which laws.
Experts and analysts say there is no specific law to control “criminal and destructive activities” of an outfit.
“We don’t have any law to deal with destructive activities. But then first it has to be decided what all amount to destructive activities,” Shambhu Thapa, a senior advocate, told the Post. “For security forces to implement the decision, the government has to define what all activities are destructive ones.”
On March 14 while making public the March 12 Cabinet decisions, Minister for Information and Communications Gokul Baskota said, “The Cabinet has decided to take action against an individual, organisation or group that is directly or indirectly supporting the activities of the Communist Party of Nepal, known as Biplab group, declaring them a criminal and destructive group.”
The government decision to act tough on the Chand outfit followed two blasts in the Capital in a span of two weeks. The first explosion in Nakkhu on February 22 claimed a human life. Also on the night of February 22, the Chand group had carried out arson attacks at around a dozen telephone towers of Ncell, a private sector telecom company. The Chand party had owned up to the blasts and arson attacks. But the incidents in the run-up to the investment summit scheduled for March 29-30 prompted the government to decide on Chand’s Communist Party of Nepal, which is an offshoot of the Maoist party that waged the decade-long war against the state from 1996-2006.
Since the first blast in the Capital, police have arrested scores of Chand party leaders. In a recent case, police on Tuesday night arrested two persons from Kavre. Police said they were arrested after they opened fire on security personnel.
Sources claimed that senior police officials have been in constant consultation
with Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai about the difficulties faced by the government in implementing the decision because of the lack of clarity.
Multiple senior police officials the Post talked to, however, would not tell the difficulties they were facing.
Nepal Police spokesperson SSP Uttam Subedi told the Post police were “using” existing laws to take necessary action against the Chand outfit based on the nature of the crimes they commit. “Maybe there is no situation for the government now to bring specific laws with respect to the decision,” Subedi said.
Chand founded his Communist Party of Nepal in 2014 after breaking away from another Maoist offshoot, which was formed by Mohan Baidya in 2012.
Experts say since the Communist Party of Nepal is not registered with the Election Commission, the government can ban the outfit.
But to initiate action against a particular group’s activities—when they are termed destructive—there is no specific law in the country, said Ranjit Bhakta Pradhananga, a legal expert, warning of chances of misuse of laws in a bid to curb the Chand outfit, which could be counterproductive.
During the Maoist insurgency, after the expiry of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Punishment and Control) Act-2002, the then government on October 12, 2004 had introduced a more severe version of the same law: the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance-2005.
“But it was repealed later,” said Pradhananga. “Now there are chances that the state could misuse the existing laws while dealing with the Chand party.”
Pradhananga even went on to term the government action “unconstitutional”.
“That’s why some parties are objecting to the move. It looks like the government wants to use different existing laws to deal with the Chand party, but in a country that believes in rule of law, this is not the way to go.” he said. “Or else, there are chances of misuse of existing laws—something like what happened during the Maoist war.”
The decision against the Chand outfit came hot on the heels of the March 8 deal between the government and CK Raut, a “Free Madhes” campaigner. And some of Chand’s old comrades have been quick to take exception to the way the government is dealing with different groups.
“Everyone knows Chand’s is a political party. They were termed a political force when they were called for talks. They have not declared war against the state,” said Bishwo Bhakta Dulal, who left the Maoist party after it decided to merge with the CPN-UML. “It seems that the government wants to suppress Chand and make him bow down like CK Raut,” Dulal, who usually identifies himself with one name “Aahuti”, told the Post. “While the state has the duty to maintain law and order, it also needs to be mindful of its actions and must ensure that such actions are ethical.”
Security experts said if the government had to take action “as per the existing laws”, there was no need to take a decision through the Cabinet, as any other crime and criminal activities are dealt with accordingly by the concerned agencies.
“The government has only created an unnecessary hype. And it has failed to say under which specific laws—as demanded by security agencies—action should be taken against the Chand group,” Geja Sharma Wagle, a security analyst, told the Post. “Security forces must not violate human rights in the name of containing Chand’s outfit. If they violate human rights under any pretext, another cycle of violence would begin in the country,” he added.
Senior advocate Thapa also said there could be issues related to human rights. “Police need to act as per civil laws. It’s true that police officials might be questioned for any human rights violations,” said Thapa. “To ensure rule of law the government needs to have proper laws.”