On May 4, 2012, Ramesh Sah and Prakash Patel, both Indian citizens, were arrested by the Nepal Police from Chipledhunga in Pokhara. They were arrested after police received a tip stating they had narcotic substances. When the police searched them, they found 28 grams of brown sugar, an opioid that is illegal in Nepal. That was not all; they also found cutlery polishes from their bags as well.
This resulted in the two being sentenced to 10 years by the Kaski District Court. While they continuously argued that the drugs were not theirs, they were sent to spend their time in jail. But, on October 21, 2021, the two were released after the Supreme Court acquitted them by reversing the decision made by the District Court and the then Appellate Court. It also asked authorities to take action against Nepal Police officers that framed these people with mala fide intent.
But, how and why did this happen?
A report prepared by Nepal Police inspector Rabindra Nath Paudel, assistant sub-inspector Yam Bahadur Nepal and constable Kapil Joshi stated they arrested the two after receiving a tip about them selling illegal items.
The police recorded their statements and kept them in prison. The two told the police that they had come to Pokhara looking for work. Before they came to Pokhara, they had been working at a small factory, polishing and making jewellery items. Realising that Pokhara, Nepal’s tourism hub, would want such skills, the two, who are cousins, came to Nepal. But, their stay was not what they had hoped for.
But, according to the police report, they told the police that they had come to Nepal with 28 grams of brown sugar. Reportedly, they also confessed to cheating a few people in Pokhara when selling jewellery.
When this statement was read out in court, the two denied saying anything like that. They refused the brown sugar was theirs.
“The items that I use for polishing jewellery like acid and tongs are mine. But, the drug isn’t. I don’t know how it got in my wallet,” Sah told the court.
But, as the drug was brown sugar, the District Court sentenced them to 10 years in prison and asked them to pay a fine of Rs 75,000. The Appellate Court also upheld the District Court’s decision, after which the case reached the Supreme Court.
When the case reached the apex court, new facts started to come up. According to officials, a fraud case was filed against the two at the Kaski District Court. The case was filed by Parvati Shrestha, whom the duo had allegedly cheated.
“They stole my jewellery and fled,” her statement reads. “They later returned it to the police after getting caught.”
For this, the District Court had booked them for two years in prison and a fine of Rs 139,000. The decision was upheld by the Appellate Court too and the case was settled then and there.
The Supreme Court then started to look into things in detail. According to a report, the two had been arrested on May 1, 2012, on charges of theft and fraud. But, the report about them being arrested with the possession of brown sugar was registered on May 4, 2012.
This made things unclear. Either the Nepal Police personnel had made a huge mistake or they had falsely accused the two of peddling drugs. What made the court sure that this was the Nepal Police’s wrongdoing was there was no way that they would have escaped the police’s grasp within those three days to get arrested again. The apex court gave a statement that pushed the case back in the Indians’ favour.
“There was no evidence that these two were arrested from Chipledhunga,” it read.
After this, the Supreme Court started to look into the case with more scrutiny. They found that no local official was consulted or spoken to during the arrest. This showed that the officer who arrested Sah and Patel had not fulfilled the due procedure needed in cases like these.
“The police said they were drug dealers, but they didn’t find any weighing object with them. Nor did they catch them selling it to anything and this is a bit fishy,” said the Supreme Court.
They also found the Appellate Court at fault as even it did check if the Nepal Police had fulfilled all due procedure before giving its verdict. The apex court has reminded judges of the need to critically analyse facts before reaching any conclusion while delivering justice.
Hence, the Supreme Court gave its verdict that there was no way that it could take that the two had been arrested by Nepal Police on May 4 when there is clear evidence that they had been arrested on May 1. Following this, the Supreme Court dismissed the talk that two were drug peddlers because there was no proof.
The court also asked concerned authorities to pay the two minimum wage for the entire period in compensation because it was evident they were falsely convicted. Along with this, the apex court has also asked the Nepal Police to take action against the police officers who prepared fake reports and sent two people to jail for more than they should have.