Top court convicts then Maoist Pushkar Gautam in murder of Ujjan ShresthaThe court had earlier convicted Bal Krishna Dhungel in the same case of 1998.
The Supreme Court has concluded that former Okhaldhunga district leader of then CPN-Maoist Pushkar Gautam was involved in the murder of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha.
A division bench of Justices Bishwombhar Prasad Shrestha and Shushma Lata Mathema on Monday upheld the 2010 verdict of the Okhaldhunga district court to sentence Gautam to life imprisonment. The district court had convicted Gautam along with Bal Krishna Dhungel, former Constituent Assembly member from CPN (Maoist Centre) in connection with the murder of Shrestha, a resident of Okhaldhunga. The court had found their involvement in the killing of Shrestha on the night of June 24, 1998.
Challenging the district court’s decision, Gautam knocked the door of Rajbiraj Appellate Court (now high court). However, the decision came against him as it upheld the district court’s decision. Gautam again challenged the Rajbiraj court’s decision at the Supreme Court claiming that he was innocent. The top court refused to give any verdict in his favour, upholding the decisions from the subordinate courts.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the decisions of the subordinate courts saying the verdict to convict Gautam was right,” advocate Pushpa Poudel, who defended the case in favour of Shrestha, told the Post. “Gautam is guilty of murdering Shrestha.”
Gautam, who was absconding after the district court’s conviction, was arrested from Bagbazar in Kathmandu in May, 2014. He has been imprisoned for around nine years. He still has another 11 years to live behind the bars.
Sabitri Shrestha, sister to Ujjan, said the Supreme Court has given justice to the Shrestha family. “We have been fighting for justice for over two decades now,” she told the Post. “Justice has prevailed.”
In addition to Gautam and Dhungel, two other people have served jail terms in connection to the murder of Ujjan. He was allegedly shot dead by Dhungel with the support of Gautam in Pokali in the district.
The Okhaldhunga District Court in 2004 had convicted Dhungel of murdering Shrestha and sentenced him to life imprisonment, but in 2006, the Rajbiraj court gave him a clean chit. The apex court in 2010 overturned Rajbiraj Appellate Court’s decision and upheld the Okhaldhunga District Court’s verdict.
The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police arrested Dhungel in 2017. The court sent him to Dillibazar Prison in October 2017. He in May 2018 was released from prison after getting a presidential pardon. Dhungel, who was with the CPN-UML, of late, died after slipping on the bathroom floor in October last year.
Though hundreds of cases relating to the insurgency have been registered in the different courts, the conviction has been made in just four of them including in Ujjan’s murder. The conviction in the murder of Dailekh-based journalist Dekendra Thapa, Maina Sunuwar and Reean Rasailee are three other cases.
As many as 66,000 complaints have been lodged at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission for Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons by the victims from the insurgency.
“The police don’t investigate war-era cases. They have refused to investigate and file chargesheets even after the court’s ruling,” Bikash Basnet, programme manager at Advocacy Forum, a non government organisation advocating human rights, told the Post.