Why Ram Kumari Jhakri has been arrested and under which law?Police say Jhakri was arrested for interrogation for making offensive remarks against the President, but they have invoked a section that deals with crime against the state.
Police on Thursday arrested Ram Kumari Jhakri, a leader of the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party, on the charge of offence against the state. She was arrested from her home in Shankhamul, Kathmandu. According to the police arrest warrant, Jhakri was arrested for offences against the state under Section 58 of the National Penal Code (Act), 2017. Superintendent Krishna Prasad Koirala, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Crime Division, said Jhakri was arrested for interrogation concerning some remarks she recently made against the President.
Here’s all you need to know about the arrest and the legal provisions used by police:
Who is Ram Kumari Jhakri?
Ram Kumari Jhakri is a member of the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction). Jhakri was a member of the now-dissolved House of Representatives under the proportional representation system. She started her politics from then- CPN-UML’s student wing All Nepal National Free Student Union and later led the organisation as its first woman president following the 2008 general convention. After Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House, Jhakri joined the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal camp of the Nepal Communist Party.
Why has she been arrested?
Police say they took her into custody for interrogation concerning her recent remarks against President Bidya Devi Bhandari. In their arrest warrant, police said she was being held as per Section 58 of the Penal Code on the charge of offence against the state.
What did she say about President Bhandari?
On January 29, while addressing a programme in Gorkha, Jhakri criticised President Bidya Devi Bhandari, comparing her with the former queens and calling her “bada maharani” (her majesty).
Asking her to stop favouring a certain faction of a certain political party, Jhakri also challenged her to contest the election. Jhakri said that Bhandari was a by-product of a culture that the former UML party promoted by fielding widows of party leaders. Madan Bhandari, President Bhandari’s husband, had died in a car crash in 1993.
Jhakri also said that if Bhandari wants to contest elections, she should first come to Koteshwor, or Chabahil or Baneshwor (neighbourhoods in Kathmandu), after leaving Shital Niwas. She then went on to say that she could even go to Balkot— largely understood as the location of Prime Minister Oli’s residence.
What constitutes an offence against the state?
Sections 49 to 58 [Chapter 1 (Offences against the state)] of the National Penal (Code) Act outlines what constitute offences against the state.
Section 49: Undermining sovereignty, integrity or national unity
Section 50: Sedition
Section 51: Any act against national interest
Section 52: Genocide
Section 53: Waging war against Nepal or assisting the army of a state at war with Nepal.
Section 54: Waging war or insurrection against a friendly state
Section 55: Giving provocation to army or police
Section 56: Espionage
Section 57: Assault on President
Section 58: Intimidation of President or Parliament
What does Section 58 (1), which police invoked to arrest Jhakri, say?
Section 58 (1) says “No person shall intimidate, whether by using any kind of force or not, show fear or terror to, or otherwise over the President or Parliament of Nepal with intent to prevent or restrain the President or Parliament of Nepal from performing any of the functions required to be performed under the constitution or law or compel the President or Parliament of Nepal to perform the functions in any specific manner.”
What punishment will Jhakri get if she is found guilty?
According to Section 58 (2) of the National Penal (Code) Act 2017, a person who commits, or causes to be committed, the offence referred to in Section 58 (1) shall be liable to a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or a fine not exceeding Rs70,000 or both.
Why has Jhakri’s arrest received widespread criticism?
People are outraged that the Oli administration is trying to curb freedom of expression, as it is arresting political leaders just for making statements. The Oli government has for long been intolerant to dissent.
Some of the bills, including the Media Council Bill and Information Technology Bill, the Oli administration wanted to introduce contained some regressive provisions aimed at curtailing freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Jhakri’s arrest comes at a time when the Oli government is planning to introduce a directive to regulate the use of social media and social networking sites.
Jhakri’s party criticised the government for arresting her.
People who see political criticism as a crime against the state, even when it is understood in a democracy that no person or institution in politics is above criticism, are in a delusion, are prejudiced, or feel they can get away with anything, the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction) said in a statement. The party has condemned the arrest and demanded that Jhakri be released immediately.
Many say Jhakri’s arrest for making a statement is against the constitutionally guaranteed people’s right to free speech.
Article 17 (2) (a) (Right to freedom) states that “Every citizen shall have freedom of opinion and expression.”
“Our constitution does not obstruct anyone from commenting and criticising anyone in public office,” said Taranath Dahal, director of Freedom Forum, a civil liberty group advocating freedom of speech and media freedom. “No criminal offence is committed just by speaking, unless what is spoken is translated into action.”