Sandeep Lamichhane’s stunning fall from grace

sandeep Lamichhane
Nepal cricket team’s former captain Sandeep Lamichhane, being released on bail on January 13, 2023. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

No other Nepali cricketer has achieved success like Sandeep Lamichhane. That said, no Nepali cricketer has been convicted of being a rapist either.

Kathmandu District Court, on Wednesday, handed Lamichhane an eight-year prison sentence for raping Gaushala 26 by taking advantage of her poor financial condition.

The crime he committed not only branded him as a criminal but also cast a shadow over all his success and achievements. He was once dubbed the future of Nepali cricket. When he was selected to play in the Indian Premier League, many pinned him to take Nepali cricket to new heights.

But now, after being convicted of rape, Lamichhane’s future in cricket is uncertain.

A humble beginning

File: Sandeep Lamichhane

It was in 2015 when former national cricket coach Pubudu Dassanayake saw Sandeep Lamichhane, bowling in the nets at Kyampachaur, Chitwan. His bowling skills immediately caught Dassanayake’s attention as he called the then 14-year-old Lamichhane to join the U19 team.

It did not take time for him to get into the national team as he made his senior team debut against Namibia in the ICC World Cricket League Championship. There was no stopping him thereafter.

In 2018, Sandeep Lamichhane was selected by the Indian Premier League team Delhi Daredevils and played nine matches in two seasons. After becoming the first Nepali cricketer to play in IPL his fame rocketed globally too. Interest started coming in from other T20 leagues too as he took part in Big Bash League, Afghanistan Premier League, Caribbean Premier League and Pakistan Premier League to name a few.

He was at the top of the world. Many say he felt invincible. His attitude changed with the stardom he got. Being appointed the national team captain added fuel to the fire as his career and stardom as at the pinnacle.

Wrong turn

Sandeep Lamichhane
Sandeep Lamichhane.

That stardom, however, was not to last as it seemed to have caught up to him.

On September 6, 2022, a girl, files a complaint against the then captain of the then Nepal national cricket team, Sandeep Lamichhane, accusing him of raping her in a Kathmandu Hotel on August 22. As the complaint was filed in Kathmandu, Lamichhane was in the Caribbean islands taking part in the Caribbean Premier League in the West Indies.  

The news created uproar all over the sports fraternity, globally. 

The girl, whom police and the court call Gaushala 26, reported to police, that on the eve of the Nepal cricket team’s Kenya departure on August 22, Sandeep Lamichhane asked her to go on a trip to Bhaktapur, and she agreed.

As it got late, Gaushala 26 could not go to her hostel as it shut its doors at 8 pm. She said, in the report, Lamichhane told her to stay with him for the night. That is when she said she was raped by Lamichhane who then flew to Kenya with the national cricket team the next day.

Two days after a  complaint was filed against Lamichhane on September 8 the Kathmandu District Court issued an arrest warrant against him.  On the same day, the Cricket Association of Nepal, a cricket governing body of Nepal, suspended Lamichhane from the team

On the run

Sandeep Lamichhane
File: Sandeep Lamichhane

After an arrest warrant was issued against Lamichhane as he was suspended by CAN, he left his CPL team. He pleaded innocence to charges put against him through his social media account.  However, despite this, Lamichhane did not come to Nepal. He went missing in action. That led to the Department of Immigration blacklisting Lamichhane on September 21 so the police could arrest him as soon as he landed.

Seventeen days had passed since the issuance of an arrest warrant against him, yet he remained inaccessible. However, on September 25, he announced through a social media post that he was taking some time off to stay alone to cope with stress but assured his return to address the case. Thereon, on September 26, Nepal Police issued a diffusion notice to all Interpol members, seeking assistance in arresting him.

Day of arrest 

Police arrest rape-accused cricket star Sandeep Lamichhane at the Kathmandu airport, on Thursday, October 6, 2022. Photo: Aryan Dhimal
Police arrest Sandeep Lamichhane at the Kathmandu airport, on Thursday, October 6, 2022. Photo: Bikash Shrestha

On October 6, a month after the issuance of an arrest warrant against him, Lamichhane returned to Nepal and was arrested.

Despite his earlier statement expressing his intention to surrender, he was arrested as soon as he landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

99 days in custody

Rape-accused cricket star Sandeep Lamichhane leaves the Kathmandu District Court, on Friday, November 4, 2022. Photo: Aryan Dhimal
Rape-accused cricket star Sandeep Lamichhane leaves the Kathmandu District Court, on Friday, November 4, 2022. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Lamichhane then spent 99 days in custody after the Kathmandu District Court permitted Nepal Police to detain him as they investigated the case.

On October 31, the government attorney’s office filed a lawsuit, demanding a jail sentence of 10 to 12 years, against Sandeep Lamichhane. And on November 4 Lamichhane was sent to judicial custody until the final verdict. 

Bailed out 

Nepal cricket team's former captain Sandeep Lamichhane, accused of rape, gets released on bail, in Kathmandu, on Friday, January 13, 2023.
Nepal cricket team’s former captain Sandeep Lamichhane was released on bail on Friday, January 13, 2023. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Surprisingly, on January 12, 2023, the Patan High Court, however, ordered his release on a bail of Rs 2 million.

A division bench of Dhruva Raj Nanda and Ramesh Dhakal heard Lamichhane’s appeal for release and decided to let him fight the legal battle staying out of jail. Despite releasing Lamichhane, the court restricted him from going abroad until the final verdict.

Back in the business 

Rape-accused cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane celebrates after taking a wicket from Scotland, during a match held under the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2, in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Photo: Bikash Shrestha
Sandeep Lamichhane celebrates after taking a wicket from Scotland, during a match held under the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2, in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Photo: Bikash Shrestha

His release on bail then prompted CAN to lift its suspension on January 31 allowing him to play cricket for Nepal. Two days after the CAN lifted his suspension, on February 2, Lamichhane was in camp.

The return of Lamichhane to the close camp of the national team received flak from various people. Many protested how an accused rapist could be part of the national team. Many went to the streets demanding he be removed but that did not happen as he was even selected for the team which was playing the last leg of the Cricket World Cup League 2.

Despite that, he played the series against Namibia and Scotland. The Scottish players, in solidarity with the survivor, chose not to shake hands with Lamichhane in both games.

He even went to the UAE to take on Papua New Guinea and the UAE after the court granted him special privileges.

After he received his bail, he took part in 20 ODIs and eight T20Is. Noteworthy among these are matches in prestigious events such as the Asian Games and Asia Cup along with three League 2 series, ODI World Cup Qualifiers, and T20 World Cup Qualifiers.

Found guilty 

However, after 15 months of legal battle, Lamichhane was convicted of rape. The bench, presided over by Judge Shishir Raj Dhakal, has deemed Lamichhane guilty of raping Gaushala 26. The court mandated a separate hearing to determine the duration of imprisonment. 

Even though Lamichhane was accused of raping a minor, the court dismissed the claim that the girl was a minor when the incident happened. 

Sentenced to prison

The District Court, on January 10 sentenced Sandeep Lamichhane to eight years of prison and ordered him to pay compensation of Rs 200,000 to the survivor.  According to the court, Lamichhane raped the survivor taking advantage of her poor financial condition. 

Despite the conviction, Lamichhane will not face immediate arrest. He has the option to appeal the district court’s decision first at the High Court and, ultimately, at the Supreme Court.

The court determined that Lamichhane had violated Section 219 (1, 2, and 3) (e) of the Civil Code 2017, as the act was non-consensual.

Suspended from playing cricket

The verdict from the court then prompted the Cricket Association of Nepal to suspend Lamichhane from all forms of cricket. The statement, issued on January 11, said Lamichhane was suspended from playing cricket indefinitely.

Letter to CAN 

Reportedly, Lamichhane has also written a letter to CAN stating that he will not be part of the cricket team until proven innocent. In that letter, he has also requested CAN to release his pending payments as he says he is in a serious financial crisis.

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Prasun Sangroula is an Onlinekhabar correspondent, mainly covering arts, society and sports.

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