Rape convicted Nepal star cricketer Lamichhane challenges jail term

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KATHMANDU: The Patan High Court on Thursday granted permission to rape convicted former Nepali cricket team captain Sandeep Lamichhane to face the case without custodial remand, court officials confirmed.

The rape convicted star player on Thursday, along with his legal team, filed a petition with the High Court challenging the decision of Kathmandu District Court’s eight years in prison sentence in a rape case.

“The High Court, in response to Lamichhane’s appeal, has allowed him to address the case without immediate incarceration”, Tirtha Raj Bhattarai, a spokesperson for the Patan High Court confirmed.

Earlier, the Kathmandu District Court had convicted Sandeep, imposing an eight-year prison term along with a fine of 3,00,000 rupees and compensation of 2,00,000 rupees. The district court’s conviction was based on allegations of coercion, suggesting that Sandeep took advantage of the victim’s financial vulnerability and exerted undue influence.

However, Sandeep’s petition in the High Court disputes the existence of substantial evidence supporting the claims of financial coercion mentioned in the verdict. Sandeep contends that the district court’s assertion regarding financial transactions lacks credible evidence.

The former cricket caption of Nepali team was accused of rape by a minor. The case only had focused on the age of the girl with subsequent hearing postponed time-to-time. The Apex Court, on February 23 this year, had ordered to conclude the case through fast track process.

The court time and again had paused the hearing after rape accused former national team captain travelled to Zimbabwe to participate in the world cup qualifiers. Lamichhane who stayed behind bars for few months was released in bail, later was allowed to travel abroad. Earlier, the hearings were kept on hold to let him play international games, now being back in Nepal the hearings have snarled.

The Patan High Court, on January 12 last year, had repealed the order of Kathmandu District Court to send Lamichhane to judicial custody in the case of raping a minor citing lack of grounds to keep him in custody. He was released on a bail of Rs 2 million the next day.

At the time of release, the Patan High Court had granted bail under five conditions which included prohibition on abroad travels. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) had appealed with the Supreme Court (SC) against the Patan High Court’s order to release him on a bail of Rs 2 million.

The OAG in its appeal has argued that the Patan High Court’s order to release Lamichhane on bail is against legal provisions and the SC’s interpretation during bail hearing in cases of similar nature.

Clause 27 of the National Criminal Procedure (Code) Act, 2017 has clear provision for holding the accused of any offense which is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding three years in detention if based on the evidence available the accused appears to be guilty of the offense or there is any reasonable ground, based on such evidence, to believe that such person is guilty of the offense.

But Lamichhane was released on bail despite sub-section 3 (d) of Section 219 of the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017 stating that a person who commits rape shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of 10 to 12 years if the woman is 16 or above 16 years of age but below 18 years of age. The victim in the case is 17 years.

Lamichhane had also moved the SC demanding he be allowed to travel with the national team going to the UAE to play ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2 matches against the UAE and Papua New Guinea at the end of February.

The joint bench of Justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Kumar Chudal after conducting a joint hearing of the petition by Lamichhane and the OAG’s appeal had ordered on February 27 to allow Lamichhane to go to the UAE.

The District Government Attorney’s Office (DGAO), Kathmandu had registered a case against Lamichhane charging him with raping a minor. Police had investigated against Lamichhane under Section 219 of the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017 after a 17-year-old girl filed a rape complaint against him.

The Kathmandu DGAO has demanded a prison sentence of up to 12 years against Lamichhane as per sub-section 3 (d) of Section 219, which states that a person who commits rape shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of 10 to 12 years if the woman is 16 or above 16 years of age but below 18 years of age. It has also sought compensation for the victim.

Lamichhane has denied the rape allegation in his statements to the DGAO and police. He has admitted to staying with the girl in the same room of a hotel in Kathmandu on August 21. But he has said that the girl had slept on the bed and he had slept on a chair that night.

The star cricketer who led the national cricket team has been accused of raping a minor multiple time in a hotel room in Kathmandu on August 21. A 17-year-old girl filed a rape complaint against Lamichhane at the Gaushala Police Circle on September 6.

The girl has complained that Lamichhane took her out to different places of Bhaktapur and Kathmandu on August 21, 2023 a day before Lamichhane left for the bilateral series with Kenya.

She has accused Lamichhane of raping her multiple times in room number 305 of a hotel in Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward Number 9 that night. Police have also collected CCTV footage of the night from the hotel. The footage shows that Lamichhane had stayed at the hotel for seven hours.

The girl has claimed in her complaint that she had gone to Nagarkot with Lamichhane on August 17, 2023 after being introduced to him through a friend. Lamichhane left to play in the Caribbean Premier League on August 22 after leading the team to a 3-2 victory in the five-match Twenty20 series against Kenya. Rohit Kumar Paudel then led the Nepali team in the One-Dayers in his absence.

An arrest warrant was issued against Lamichhane on September 8, 2023 and the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) suspended him from the national team the same day after issuance of the arrest warrant. Nepal Police later also issued a diffusion notice against him through Interpol on September 26, 2023.

Section 219 (2) of the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017 states: “Where a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or with a girl child below eighteen years of age even with her consent, the man shall be considered to commit rape on such woman or girl child”. (ANI)

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