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What happens to Bhagirathi Bhatta murderers if they are found guilty

A sketch representing Bhagirathi Bhatta

Around two and a half years ago, the whole nation was traumatised by the brutal rape and murder of Nirmala Pant. Recently, a similar incident has been reported from the Baitadi district of Sudurpaschim, where Bhagirathi Bhatta has been reportedly raped and murdered.  

Currently, the Nepal Police is investigating into the case. So far, it has sent the victim’s vaginal swab to the National Forensic Science Laboratory, Kathmandu and arrested seven suspects for the interrogation. However, people fear it might be another story like that of Nirmala Pant that has gone unsolved.

The data maintained by Nepal Police show that the case of rape in the Sudurpaschim is increasing in each passing year. Contradictory to that, the number of perpetrators being convicted is declining.

But, it can still be hoped that the police will be able to crack the mystery and nab the culprits, leading to a successful prosecution. So, what happens if both rape and murder charges are proved against the suspects in relation to Bhagirathi Bhatta’s murder?

Punishment for rape

The National Penal Code, 2017 (Muluki Aparadh Samhita, 2074) prescribes different punishments for a rape case based on the victim’s age.

According to section 219(3) of the code:

  • If the victim is under the age of 10 years, fully disabled, or who has crossed the age of 70, the perpetrator shall be punished with life imprisonment.
  • If the victim is between 10 and 14 years of age, the perpetrator shall be punished with imprisonment for 18 to 20 years.
  • If the victim is between 14 and 16 years of age, the perpetrator shall be punished with imprisonment for 12 to 14 years.
  • If the victim is between 16 and 18 years of age, the perpetrator shall be punished with imprisonment for 10 to 12 years.
  • If the victim is aged 18 years or above, the perpetrator shall be punished with imprisonment for 7 to 10 years.

As reported, Bhagirathi Bhatta was 17 years old. Therefore, the perpetrators will be imprisoned for 10 to 12 years if the rape charge is proved.

 Punishment for murder

The code’s section 177 prescribes life imprisonment as punishment for a crime of murder.

Punishment for both crimes committed together

If two crimes are committed in a single incident, the culprit would be punished fully for the crime in which punishment is higher. For another crime with the lower punishment, half of the punishment shall be added on the previous one as per the code’s section 43.

However, the provision mentions it will not get implemented in a crime which is punishable by life imprisonment. So, if the culprit(s) involved in the act of Bhagirathi Bhatta is/are convicted, the person will be punished with life imprisonment (jail for 25 years) as per the code’s section 42.

What about Nirmala Pant’s murderers?

Legally, there are certain limitations that bar the prosecution of the perpetrators. For instance, the perpetrator of Nirmala Pant will not be prosecuted under the offence of rape as per the code’s section 229 that has set one-year time limitation to register a rape case.

Further, Nirmala Pant’s case was entangled with the mismanagement of incident, tampering of the evidence, false accusations and ever-long investigation with no results. Many blame a flawed investigation as a major factor that hindered the investigation to nab the perpetrator.

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Regmi is an advocate associated with Associates Hub Law Firm.

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