Regarding the Supreme Court’s Interim Order on the PIL against appointment of Agni Sapkota as Minister of Information and Communication:
On 21 Februay, the Court did not give us petitioners the interim order we sought to force Agni Sapkota out of his ministership as a murder (kartabya-jyan) accused. However, the double bench made up of Justices Ram Kumar Prasad Shah and Prakash Wasti did make the following points which fills the petitioners with hope:
a) the Court spoke clearly against the morality of Mr. Sapkota continuing as minister, sought his cooperation in the murder investigation, but leaving it to Mr. Sapkota to take the personal decision to resign from office;
b) the Justices rejected the defendants’ central claim that ‘transitional justice’ required suspension of regular criminal procedure on conflict era cases; the Court stated unequivocally that the law and justice system should continue to pursue the alleged perpetrators of the conflict period, a ruling that will have positive impact other cases pending against alleged perpetrators in the state security forces and among the former insurgents.
c) the Court expressed dismay at the delay by the police in pursuing the case filed by Purnimaya Lama, widow of Arjun Lama, against Agni Sapkota and others; it asked the Kavre District police to re-energise itself in the investigation against Arjun Lama, and to report every 15 days to the court via the Attorney General’s Office.
These directives do create conditions for Mr. Sapkota to resign on moral grounds, the petitioners believe; the order also sets a precedent on the pursuance of conflict-era abuse, which the Maoist side argues are protected under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to be kept pending for the future Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On the whole, the petitioners believe that this is a victory for civil rights, even if the bulk of the media has only focussed on the single point – that the court did not ask that the minister be relieved as demanded by the petitioners. That much is true, but there is much else in there in the Court’s order.
The petitioners have now demanded that Sapkota resign on moral grounds on a full reading of the Supreme Court’s interim order. I also believe that the arguments in court by our lawyers, such as Hari Phuyal, Tikaram Bhattarai, Satish Kharel and Govinda Bandi, marked a high point in human rights argumentation in the court system of Nepal. Similarly, the order by Justices Shah and Wasti is a marker stone in terms of establishing jurisprudence vis-a-vis conflict era excess. We must now continue to fight to bring perpetrators to justice, whether they be Maoist cadre or state security personnel.
As soon as I can get a pdf file of the court order, I will upload it, as it provides interesting reading. In the meantime, I would direct you to the Annapurna Post of today, for significant experts from the order.