Nepal`s new `crown prince` gets a Christmas reprieve

Rubel Chowdhury had locked horns with deposed crown prince Paras Shah.

Updated: Dec 24, 2010, 15:42 PM IST

Kathmandu: Nepal`s Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala`s son-in-law, who became embroiled in a long and increasingly acrimonious controversy after locking horns with deposed crown prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah, was granted a Christmas reprieve by the Supreme Court on Friday.

Rubel Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi national married to Koirala`s daughter Melanie, faces mounting negative publicity ever since his drunken brawl with Paras earlier this month led to the former prince being arrested by police and kept in custody for two days, an unprecedented happening in Nepal, where the royal family was once above law.

Now Chowdhury, dubbed Nepal`s "new crown prince" by the media due to the clout his mother-in-law wields, finds himself in the eye of a storm with allegations that he has been mixed up in several questionable deals that has cost Nepal a loss of billions of rupees.

Royalists had struck back at Chowdhury on Thursday, filing a writ in Supreme Court and asking for an inquiry into the reported deals. They include acting as a middle man for Nepal Police during the purchase of substandard mine-protected armoured personnel carriers and causing the state treasury a loss of over NRS 300 million, and running a fake Nepali passport racket with the help of other Bangladeshis, two of whom were arrested by police.

Daindra Bahadur Thakuri, district chief of Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, the only party in Parliament to support monarchy, filed the public interest litigation against Rubel Chowdhury, with the support of nine lawyers.

Though the apex court had ordered a hearing on Friday, it had to be shelved due to lack of time.

"There were four other cases before us," Thakuri said. "So the court ran out of time."

On Fridays, the court closes early and Saturday is a holiday.

"The court suggested Sunday but we happen to be tied up that day," Thakuri said. "So now the hearing has been deferred to Monday."

In his writ, Thakuri also asks for an investigation into media reports that say Chowdhury, protected by his mother-in-law, also ran an international telephone call racket that bypassed government regulatory authorities and caused the state a loss of millions of rupees in revenue.

According to media reports, police had busted the racket in Kathmandu and arrested a couple of Bangladeshis but were forced to bury the investigation after political pressure.

Thakuri`s writ has also asked for investigation in the roles played by Koirala, her party leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who was home minister when the questionable carrier deal was struck, and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

While Chowdhury has remained silent about the allegations, they have been denied vigorously by Koirala, who is also the foreign minister of Nepal.

She has dismissed the reports as baseless and attempts to tarnish Chowdhury`s character along with hers.

IANS