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Now Sobhraj fiancée, lawyer on receiving end of law

By Sudeshna Sarkar,

Kathmandu: From a lawyer following the law, Shakuntala Thapa found herself on the receiving end of Nepal’s law Sunday as she and her daughter Nihita Biswas, better known as Charles Sobhraj’s fiancée, face contempt of court charges.

Now the feisty lawyer, who lost her fight to get Sobhraj acquitted of murder last week, will have to start a new fight to defend herself and her daughter after the Supreme Court Sunday ordered the duo to be present in court within three days and submit an explanation.

The order was the sequel to a heated jostling on the court premises Friday after judges Ram Kumar Prasad Shah and Gauri Dhakal ended a seven-year-old court room drama that had generated worldwide interest by pronouncing Sobhraj guilty of the murder of American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975.

Nihita and Thapa, who had been present in the court, gave vent to their anger and disappointment at the sentence, calling it biased and accusing the judges of having been bribed. Nihita also called the justices “bloody judge” and the whole scene was replayed several times by Nepal’s television channels.

The reaction came Sunday when lawyers Rajan Adhikari and Shanta Sedhai filed a contempt of court petition against both, demanding a one-year jail term and an NRS.10,000 fine as punishment.

After hearing the application, Justice Shah ordered the pair to present their explanation within 72 hours or face arrest.

The new twist will add more sensation to the Sobhraj saga in Nepal that started in 2003 after he was sighted in a Kathmandu hotel and soon arrested from a casino in the capital.

Police charged him with the murder of Bronzich, in 1975 when he was alleged to have entered Nepal on a fake passport. The trial dredged up his past and allegations that he was a serial killer and once again tagged him with the moniker “Bikini Killer”, an appellation that he had hoped to put behind him forever since his release from India’s Tihar jail in 1997 and beginning a new life in Paris.

Though he has been persistently denying both charges and claiming he was framed in Nepal, the Supreme Court Friday upheld his life term saying his trials in Indian courts had proved he was in Nepal in 1975 and used the opportunity to kill Bronzich.

Sobhraj, who had been glued to his television set inside the Central Prison Friday, had been anticipating contempt of charge proceedings against Nihita and Thapa.

However, he also partly welcomed it, saying it would enable his case to be opened once again and discrepancies brought to light.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])