Uma Shankar Rayabhar released on bail as the case against him continuesThe man from Bara was sent to jail 11 months ago after he was framed for tax evasion.
The 24-year-old was released after posting Rs25,000 in bail as directed by the court. It had reduced the bail amount correcting the ruling of the Patan High Court, which demanded a whopping Rs7.5 million from him. He was sent to prison on March 3 after he failed to post the amount.
A poor man from Parwanipur in Bara, he lacked the resources to pay the bail amount demanded by the high court. “I can’t tell you how happy we are to see him released,” Subhas Sahani, his friend, told the Post. “However, the case hasn’t concluded.”
Rayabhar, who wanted to become a motorcycle mechanic, was brought to Kathmandu at the age of 16 by one of his acquaintances Uma Shankar Sahani.
About six years ago, Sahani, along with Saroj Kumar Mishra of Godaita-8, Sarlahi who was living at Koteshwar in the Capital, asked for Rayabhar’s citizenship certificate. The latter’s fingerprints were taken on many documents under the pretext of providing him a job.
Mishra then registered Blue Cross Traders and Jen Suppliers Pvt Ltd using Rayabhar’s name. Using the two companies, Sahani and Mishra evaded Rs280 million in taxes.
As the company was registered with Rayabhar’s identification documents, the Department of Revenue Investigation charged him with tax evasion totalling Rs280 million. The high court demanded such a huge amount in bail, treating him as the prime accused in the tax evasion case together with Mishra.
However, while issuing the order on Friday, the Supreme Court annulled the decision of the Patan High Court to demand Rs7.5 million, citing the latter’s decision as unjustifiable.
The court has noted that Mishra was in charge of at least two companies and all their transactions. He enjoyed all the benefits even though Rayabhar was the owner of the companies on paper. Rayabhar was not found to have been directly involved in wrongdoing, noted the Supreme Court.
His lawyers say although Rayabhar’s troubles haven’t ended as the hearing on the case still continues, the Supreme Court’ ruling is a huge relief. “The Supreme Court’s ruling mainly was for bail,” advocate Radhika Khatiwada, his lawyer, told the Post. “However, the court’s observation that he wasn’t directly involved in the wrongdoing would help prove his innocence.”
After releasing him on Sunday, the high court has asked him to be present at the court on February 28. The date of next hearing on the tax evasion case, however, has yet to be fixed. Mishra, who appears to have masterminded the tax evasion, is absconding.
Rayabhar’s case was registered at the Supreme Court with the help of Khatiwada on December 31 last year. After learning from media reports, Khatiwada decided to take up the case free of cost.
“I think there are many issues that contribute to such incidents where poor people are made easy targets by the rich and powerful,” Khatiwada told the Post Friday. “If I had not taken this case, Rayabhar might have languished in prison for many years as eight of the accused are still at large, and without their presence, the case would have continued in the court forever.”
Khatiwada says following the Supreme Court’s ruling, it is almost certain that Rayabhar will not be treated as a prime accused together with Mishra. There are two possibilities, say his lawyers: first he could get a clean chit or he might be fined a minimum amount. “We will request the court for a clean chit,” said Khatiwada.
Rayabhar’s wife Sonam Devi said her husband was released with the support of many people. The Post’s sister publication Kantipur carried a series of stories on how Rayabhar became victim of fraud and how he was released while Khatiwada and other lawyers have provided free legal assistance. “I am thankful to everyone who supported us and ensured his release,” Sonam Devi told the Post.