Nepal court admits first case against former royals

The royal Palace of Nepal

On Monday, Jaya Shah nee Pandey, common law wife of former Prince Dhirendra, filed a case in Kathmandu's district court, staking claim  to the property of the playboy prince who perished in the infamous royal palace massacre in 2001.

Dhirendra, the younger brother of deposed king Gyanendra, was notorious for his philandering despite being married to the then queen's youngest sister Princess Prekshya.
Though the enraged queen pressured the king into stripping Dhirendra of his royal title as punishment, it still did not deter him from marrying at least twice more.

Jaya Shah claims she was married to Dhirendra in 1987 in a temple in Kathmandu and the ceremony was attended by members of the royal family.

Subsequently, she had a daughter, Shreya. Mother and daughter both now live in Boston, where they fled alleging intimidation by the royal family, who exercised a stranglehold on Nepal till the fall of King Gyanendra's government due to a pro-democracy movement in 2006.

After Dhirendra's death, his property was partly transferred to Gyanendra's family with the rest being divided among his three daughters, Puja, Sitashma and Dilasha.

The self-exiled `junior' wife is now claiming a part of the property the three daughters inherited, for herself as well as her daughter. The case is being fought in Nepal by her uncle and lawyers with mother and daughter preferring to remain in Boston. This is the first time that Nepal's courts have admitted a law suit against the former royals.

Till last year, the constitution gave the king and his family legal immunity. No law exists in Nepal to try the king and other royals. The crown was the most powerful institution in the country backed by the army and even the blackest crimes alleged to have been committed by the royals were hushed up.

"The palace paid money to the widow of Praveen Gurung (the singer killed in a car accident by the then prince Paras) to hush it up," says Kishor Shrestha, editor of the Jana Aastha weekly.

The Nepali weekly had last year reported Jaya Shah's determination to fight for her and her daughter's rights now that Nepal had abolished monarchy and King Gyanendra had been reduced to a commoner, stripped of his privileges.

Shrestha has also been demanding an investigation into the rape and murder of three young girls in Pokhara in which former royals and their friends are said to have had a hand. Jaya Shah should win the case on humanitarian as well as legal grounds, Shrestha said.
 
She has strong documentary evidence to prove her case, including the birth certificate of her daughter issued by the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (in Kathmandu), which was signed by Dhirendra as the newborn's father.

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