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Freedom Forum condemns arrest of peaceful protestors

The Nepal Police arrested three leaders of Nepal Bibeksheel Party for protesting against the misuse of authority by Finance Minster Janardhan Sharma in the federal capital Kathmandu on July5.

The arrested includes, Bijay Babu Shiwakoti, spokesperson of the party, Sashibikram Karki, federal committee member, and Laxman Shrestha, campaign and network department head of the party. 

The leaders were protesting against misuse of authority by the Minister. The Finance Minister had allegedly changed the tax rates at the last moment of budget preparation, thereby evading ministry oversight. It has been claimed that Minister Sharma involved an outsider in the midnight to change the tax rates in the budget at midnight. 

It has courted huge controversy leading the public demand of Minister Sharma's resignation.

The arrested leaders said that they were arrested for defying the restricted area for protest at New Baneshwor, Kathmandu. 

The arrested were however, released after some hours. 

The District Administration Office, Kathmandu has restricted different areas in the capital as 'no protest zones' pursuant to section 6(3) of the Local Administration Act (2028 B.S.). The local administration has declared areas near the office of the president, the federal parliament, and Singha Durbar, the official residence of Prime Minister, among other as prohibited zone. In accordance with this, public assemblies of five or more than five people are punishable by a fine of rupees five hundred or one-month imprisonment or both by the Chief District Officer. 

Freedom Forum is concerned by the arrest of peaceful protestors. The arrest of peaceful protestors is encroachment of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. 

Freedom Forum is alarmed by the gross misuse of Local Administration Act (2028 B.S.) to muzzle dissent. Despite the said Act and the Criminal Code, 2074 prohibits the use of force over peaceful assembly unless and until the event turns violent, or there is a perceived threat to peace and security, the law enforcing authority has been violating the law. 

Freedom Forum condemns the arrest of the protestors. All protest has some objective to serve. Protests or demonstrations need to be visible and heard out easily by the audience. Refraining peaceful protests at key public spaces impairs the use of civic space in a democracy. Freedom Forum appeals to the law-enforcing authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly of public and deter the misuse of the Local Administration Act.

For more information,
Freedom Forum