Kathmandu, Jul 7: In the latest twist to the drama that started in Nepal and abroad after it became public that criminal mastermind Charles Sobhraj had become engaged to a Nepali woman 44 years his junior, the mother of his fiancée Nihita Biswas entered the fray in a bid to protect her daughter's rights.
Shakuntala Thapa, Nihita's mother and a senior Nepali lawyer, Monday began consulting the top legal experts of the country, including former attorney-generals, to discuss the legal remedies to fight the recurring bigamy allegation against her would-be son-in-law.
"I am consulting my senior partners," Thapa told IANS. "We are looking at the best way to protect my daughter's privacy as well as rights."
Her daughter and Sobhraj, on their part, announced their intention to jointly slap defamation suits on several news agencies, newspapers and television stations in Nepal and abroad.
"We haven't broken any law by deciding to marry," Sobhraj told IANS from Kathmandu's central prison, where he is fighting a 20-year jail sentence imposed for the murder of an American tourist in 1975.
"The question of bigamy doesn't arise because my wife and I were divorced in the 70s," he added.
Sobhraj married a French woman in 1969. However, she filed for divorce when he was arrested in India in the 70s and on May 17, 1974, the French Tribunal of Nanterre granted the divorce.
Two months later, his ex-wife married an American and had a daughter by him a year later.
Sobhraj, serving a prison sentence in New Delhi's Tihar Jail, was officially informed of the divorce by the French Embassy in New Delhi in 1977.
Besides the official certificates, all these details are also mentioned in two books written about Sobhraj - "Serpentine" by Thomas Thompson and "The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj" by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke.
"Besides the fact that I am single, we are also planning to marry in Paris when I am released, in accordance with French laws," Sobhraj said. "So the question of violating Nepal's marriage laws does not arise at all."
Sobhraj's tough French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre has been asked to serve legal notices on the newspapers and agencies that have been repeatedly describing him as a "serial killer".
"It is sheer defamation," Sobhraj said. "No court ever convicted me of murder. While Nepal's district court in 2004 pronounced me guilty of the killing of American Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975, I am contesting the verdict in the Supreme Court and the issue is sub judice. I have been a victim of media prejudice and now my fiancée and her family are also being hounded."
The Himalayan Times daily, which was taken to task by Nihita, Monday said her mother was a former supporter of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist who switched camps and is now a Maoist supporter.
She was also said to be close to Maoist Minister for Physical Planning and Works Hisila Yami, who submitted her resignation last month along with other Maoist ministers.
Besides consulting lawyers to defend Sobhraj in Supreme Court, Thapa will also be looking at libel laws to protect her own privacy.