Court lifts foreign travel ban on cricketer Sandeep LamichhaneA division bench of justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Kumar Chudal ruled in favour of the cricketer.
On Monday, the Supreme Court lifted the travel ban on rape-accused national cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane.
A division bench of justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Kumar Chudal ruled in favour of the petition filed by the cricketer, allowing him to travel abroad to play games.
“It is found that the person [Lamichhane] has cooperated in the judicial process by returning to the country and he has satisfactorily abided by the court order by not defying various prohibitory orders issued by the Patan High Court,” the Supreme Court spokesperson Bimal Poudel said after the apex court order on Monday.
“As the defendant is a star cricketer of national as well as international stature and he needs to participate in such games, the court has now revoked the previous order to bar him from such visits.”
In an earlier decision, the court had refused to allow him to take part in the ongoing one-day series in the United Arab Emirates.
The apex court also upheld the Patan High Court’s decision to release Lamichhane on bail. A division bench of judges Dhruva Raj Nanda and Ramesh Dahal on January 12 ordered the release of the suspended cricketer on bail with conditions.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Lamichhane had filed a petition at the top court asking for permission to travel abroad. He demanded an order to allow him to travel to the United Arab Emirates for a triangular series of the ICC World Cup League 2 that started on Monday. The rape-accused cricketer moved the apex court on January 23 after the high court released him on bail with conditions. The court barred Lamichhane from traveling abroad and directed him to inform the police while leaving Kathmandu.
Advocates said that although everyone should respect the Supreme Court’s ruling, Monday's order may lower the self-esteem of the victim and her family.
“Earlier, the Patan High Court ordered his release on a conditional bail, but now the Supreme Court has allowed him even to travel abroad for games,” said Advocate Anjita Khanal. “Such a ruling could damage public trust in the court, as the law should be equal to all.”
She said that the law should treat everyone equally and no one should get more liberty just because they are a star player.
Another advocate Kapil Pokharel said the idea of sending someone to judicial custody should be viewed from the perspective of whether there are alternatives to effectively conduct the trial not only by keeping the accused in custody, but also by allowing the defendant to remain free.
The rape case against Lamichhane is still sub judice at the Kathmandu District Court.
“If the Supreme Court can bring Lamichhane back to Nepal to take the process further as and when needed, it can request an Interpol diffusion if needed. The case has not been closed, it’s still sub judice. The district court is yet to make a final decision,” said Pokharel.
The single bench of Justice Khatiwada had on February 24 decided to conduct the final hearing on Lamichhane’s plea together with the petition from the Attorney General’s Office that had on January 31 challenged the high court’s order to release the cricketer on bail.
The Attorney General’s Office demanded revocation of the high court’s decision and further probe the rape charges against him by keeping him in judicial custody. Following the high court’s verdict, Lamichhane was released from custody on January 13 after posting a bail of Rs2 million.
The District Attorney’s Office, Kathmandu has lodged a case against Lamichhane accusing him of raping a 17-year-old girl on August 21, 2022. He has been charged under Section 219 of the Criminal Code 2017.
On September 6 last year, the girl had registered a first information report against the 22-year-old cricketer at the Metropolitan Police Circle Gaushala, Kathmandu. On October 1, Lamichhane announced that he would return to Nepal on October 6 to face legal charges. Soon after landing at the airport, he was arrested by officials at the Department of Immigration and police.