Nepal SC demolishes Sobhraj`s marriage claim

The court demands legal documents to prove Nihita`s marriage with Sobhraj.

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2010, 00:02 AM IST

Kathmandu: After dismissing his "not guilty" plea in a nearly 40-year-old murder case, Nepal`s Supreme Court has now demolished the claim by yesteryear`s master criminal Charles Sobhraj and his Nepali fiancée Nihita Biswas that they were man and wife, saying the claim had no legal validity.

The apex court, while hearing a contempt of court case on Sunday against Nihita and her mother Shakuntala Thapa, who was also Sobhraj`s lawyer, said that the pair could not claim to be related to Sobhraj, now a French citizen, since there was no legal evidence that Nihita and Sobhraj ever tied the knot.

Nihita had met Sobhraj in Kathmandu`s Central Prison in 2008, after he had been given a 20-year jail term for the murder of American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975.

The pair, who have a 44-year age difference, say they fell in love at first sight and the courtship flourished undeterred right under the eyes of guards and other prisoners.

Last year, during celebrations of Dashain, Nepal`s biggest religious festival, prisoners were allowed to meet friends and relatives in an enclosure inside the jail. Nihita claims she and Sobhraj underwent traditional Nepali rites to become man and wife.

Since then, the 22-year-old has been calling herself the wife of Sobhraj, who has an earlier failed marriage to his credit and a string of women accomplices.

In a series of media interviews, Nihita claimed her "husband" had been wronged by Nepal`s judiciary and convicted without evidence.

Last month, after Sobhraj`s appeal against his sentence was dismissed by the Supreme Court, Nihita and Thapa became the cynosure of the media when they alleged that the two judges hearing the case - Ram Kumar Prasad Shah and Gouri Dhakal - had been bribed into convicting Sobhraj.

However, after two lawyers slapped the mother-daughter duo with a contempt of court suit, they toned down their stance, apologising to the court and saying they were carried away due to their emotional attachment to Sobhraj.

Nihita said she temporarily lost her senses as she was Sobhraj`s wife and Thapa said she was his mother-in-law.

However, the two judges now hearing the contempt case - the same Shah, whom they had maligned and Balaram KC - asked the women to produce the marriage certificate.

When Nihita said she did not have a certificate but possessed photographs of the "marriage" inside prison, it was dismissed by the judges who said if they could not produce any legal certificate, they would not be able to call themselves Sobhraj`s wife and mother-in-law and use that as an explanation for their conduct.

Shah also asked if they would be willing to apologise in full media glare, since they had insulted the court in full media glare. The lawyers representing the two women said they were ready to do so.

The trial will continue next Sunday when six lawyers selected as amicus curie will present their view points.

The two complainants, lawyers Shanta Sedhain and Rajan Adhikari, have now asked the judges to be lenient as the two have already offered an apology.

In an unprecedented move, the judges had ordered Nihita and Thapa to spend a night in a police cell while they were recording their apology in court.

They were released after lawyers protested, saying it was a drastic case of jailing first and holding a trial later.

From his prison, Sobhraj is anxiously following the contempt of court case and offering his suggestions on how to beat the rap.

IANS