By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,
Kathmandu : In a sensational turn of events, five days after yesteryear’s most wanted criminal Charles Sobhraj’s appeal against a life term for murder was rejected by Nepal’s Supreme Court, it was the turn of his fiancee, Nihita Biswas, and her mother Shakuntala Thapa, to share his fate, first appearing in the docks in a contempt of court case and then being sent to custody by the judges.
History seemed to repeat itself at the Supreme Court as police shoved Thapa, who is also Sobhraj’s lawyer, and Nihita into a black police van, like the ones that had brought Sobhraj, handcuffed, to various courts while police mulled where to hold them in custody.
Supreme Court spokesman Hemant Rawal told IANS they would be produced in court Thursday morning for resumption of hearing on the contempt of court case that saw them on the receiving end of law.
It was not known immediately whether they would be sent to the women’s wing of the Central Jail, where an anxious Sobhraj was waiting for news of the hearing.
Thapa and Nihita were slapped with a contempt of court case by two lawyers for calling the judges who had found Sobhraj guilty in Friday’s court room drama corrupt.
It was one of the same judges, Ram Kumar Prasad Shah, who ordered the court to summon the mother-daughter duo in retribution or issue an arrest order if they failed to turn up in court.
The two women had collected their summons from the court Tuesday and were given three days to present themselves again and furnish an explanation.
However, they decided not to delay but presented themselves in the court Wednesday morning.
Since Gauri Dhakal, the other judge who had pronounced the verdict on Sobhraj along with Shah, went into retirement soon afterwards, the bench hearing the women Wednesday comprised Shah and Balaram KC.
Family sources said the feisty Thapa, who had also crossed swords with the two judges during the long murder trial, had decided to offer an olive branch and apologise for her outburst.
The two women’s plea was that since they were “Sobhraj’s family”, they were emotionally upset by the verdict that has now sent the 66-year-old behind bars for at least 10 more years and lost their equilibrium.
The two lawyers who slapped the contempt court – Rajan Adhikari and Shanta Sedhai – have urged the court to punish them with a fine of NRS 10,000 and a one-year prison term.
However, Wednesday’s hearing began late and Thapa could get her explanation and apology only half-way through while Nihita was not even given a chance to speak. The two stunned women were then bundled out of the court room and hauled into the waiting van. Their mobile phones were taken away.
Thapa is a senior Supreme Court lawyer and researcher whose career took a downhill turn after she decided to defend Sobhraj.
It led to her defeat in a Nepal Bar Association election. She was also crucified by the tabloids for allowing her daughter to become engaged to Sobhraj, who has been described as a cunning serial killer.
Though her defence of Sobhraj contains several startling pieces of evidence, they were disregarded by the two judges who found Sobhraj guilty of visiting Nepal in 1975 using a tampered passport and using the opportunity to kill American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich and her Canadian room partner Laurent Armand Carriere.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])