Nepal cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane acquitted in rape case

May 15, 2024

Kathmandu [Nepal], May 15 : Nepal's spinner Sandeep Lamichhane was acquitted by the Patan High Court in a rape case and is now available for selection for the ICC T20 World Cup, starting on June 1 in West Indies and USA.
The squad for the T20 World Cup was already announced by the Cricket Association (CAN). Rohit Paudel is set to lead a young pool of players who were named in the squad earlier in May. However, the squads can be changed until May 25 and Sandeep could make it to the team.
Earlier, Patan High Court on Thursday granted permission to rape convicted former Nepali cricket team captain Sandeep Lamichhane to face the case without custodial remand, court officials confirmed.
Lamichhane on Thursday, along with his legal team, filed a petition with the High Court challenging the decision of Kathmandu District Court's eight-year prison sentence in a rape case.
"The High Court, in response to Lamichhane's appeal, has allowed him to address the case without immediate incarceration," Tirtha Raj Bhattarai, spokesperson for the Patan High Court, confirmed ANI over the phone.

Earlier in January, the Kathmandu District Court convicted Sandeep, imposing an eight-year prison term along with a fine of 3,00,000 rupees and compensation of 2,00,000 rupees. Also, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) suspended rape-convicted former national team captain Sandeep Lamichhane from all national and international games.
In a press release issued by the nation's cricket governing body, Chatur Bahadur Chand, Chairman of CAN, announced that the rape-convicted player has been removed from the national team and will no longer represent the nation in any game format.
The district court's conviction was based on allegations of coercion, suggesting that Sandeep took advantage of the victim's financial vulnerability and exerted undue influence.
However, Sandeep's petition to the High Court disputed the existence of substantial evidence supporting the claims of financial coercion mentioned in the verdict. Sandeep contended that the district court's assertion regarding financial transactions lacked credible evidence.
Lamichhane was accused of rape by a minor back in 2022. The victim in the case was 17 years old at the time of filing the case. The star cricketer who led the national cricket team was accused of raping a minor multiple times in a hotel room in Kathmandu on August 21 of that year. The victim filed a rape complaint against Lamichhane at the Gaushala Police Circle on September 6.
Lamichhane had denied the rape allegation in his statements to the DGAO and police. He has admitted to staying with the girl in the same room of a hotel in Kathmandu on August 21. But he has said that the girl had slept on the bed and he had slept on a chair that night.
She had accused Lamichhane of raping her multiple times in room number 305 of a hotel in Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward Number 9 that night. Police have also collected CCTV footage of the night from the hotel. The footage shows that Lamichhane had stayed at the hotel for seven hours.
The girl claimed in her complaint that she had gone to Nagarkot with Lamichhane on August 17, 2023, after being introduced to him through a friend. Lamichhane left to play in the Caribbean Premier League on August 22 after leading the team to a 3-2 victory in the five-match Twenty20 series against Kenya. Rohit Kumar Paudel then led the Nepali team in the one-dayers in his absence.
An arrest warrant was issued against Lamichhane on September 8, 2023 and the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) suspended him from the national team the same day after the issuance of the arrest warrant. Nepal Police later also issued a diffusion notice against him through Interpol on September 26, 2023.
Section 219 (2) of the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017 states: "Where a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or with a girl child below eighteen years of age even with her consent, the man shall be considered to commit rape on such woman or girl child."
The case only focused on the age of the girl, with subsequent hearings postponed from time to time. The Apex Court earlier on February 23, 2024 had ordered to conclude the case through a fast-track process.
The court again paused the hearing after Lamichhane travelled to Zimbabwe to participate in the World Cup qualifiers. He was behind bars for a few months and was released on bail and was later allowed to travel abroad. Earlier, the hearings were kept on hold to let him play international games.
The Patan High Court repelled the order of the Kathmandu District Court to send Lamichhane to judicial custody in the case of raping a minor, citing a lack of grounds to keep him in custody. He was released on bail of Rs 2 million the next day.
At the time of release, the Patan High Court had granted bail under five conditions, which included a prohibition on overseas travel. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) had appealed with the Supreme Court (SC) against the Patan High Court's order to release him on bail of Rs 2 million.
The OAG in appeal, argued that the Patan High Court's order to release Lamichhane on bail was against legal provisions and the SC's interpretation during bail hearings in cases of similar nature.
Clause 27 of the National Criminal Procedure (Code) Act, 2017 has clear provision for holding the accused of any offence that is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding three years in detention if, based on the evidence available, the accused appears to be guilty of the offence or there is any reasonable ground, based on such evidence, to believe that such person is guilty of the offence.
But Lamichhane was released on bail despite sub-section 3 (d) of Section 219 of the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017 stating that a person who commits rape shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of 10 to 12 years if the woman is 16 or above 16 years of age but below 18 years of age. The victim in the case was 17 years old at the time of filing the case.
Lamichhane had also moved to the SC, demanding he be allowed to travel with the national team to the UAE to play ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 matches against the UAE and Papua New Guinea at the end of February.
The joint bench of Justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Kumar Chudal, after conducting a joint hearing of the petition by Lamichhane and the OAG's appeal, ordered on February 27 to allow Lamichhane to go to the UAE.
The District Government Attorney's Office (DGAO), Kathmandu had registered a case against Lamichhane, charging him with raping a minor. Police had investigated him under Section 219 of the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017 after a 17-year-old girl filed a rape complaint against him.
The Kathmandu DGAO had demanded a prison sentence of up to 12 years against Lamichhane as per sub-section 3 (d) of Section 219, which states that a person who commits rape shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of 10 to 12 years if the woman is 16 or above 16 years of age but below 18 years of age. It also sought compensation for the victim.