Bichari

Introduction to Bichari

Bichari was a District Judicial Administrator in the Kingdom of Gorkha during the reign of Prithvi Narayan Shah. Their Primary Responsibility was collecting Evidence and initiating Cases in the Courts. They were pure Judicial administrators with Limited Jurisdiction outside Judicial or Legal Matters.

Bicharis are the assistant Judicial Administrators for the Ditthas and Dharmadhikara/ Dharmadhikari. Bicharis had to obey the Ditthas and consequently were obeyed by the Jamadar.

They were further responsible for thoroughly interrogating the parties involved in the Case. They were also expected to reach a conclusive decision by discussing the matter with the Dittha.

It is said that the Four Courts of Kathmandu housed Two Bicharis each. Important Regions also contained them as the first instance court’s judicial officers.

Appointment of Bichari

Prithvi Narayan Shah famously mentions that the caste of Magars should be kept in the post of Bichari. Historians have assumed that the King said so because of their honesty and passion for doing their Job. They also engaged themselves in Less Corruption and other suspicious activities. This Principle has been mentioned in the acclaimed Divya Upadesh of the King.

However, it cannot be stated or analyzed for sure if Magars were selected for this Post due to the lack of Historical Records.

Individuals who were well educated and highly moral were appointed to this Post. They had to be practically acquainted with the law. Despite that, it was not necessary for them to have a descriptive knowledge of the Dharma Shastras.

Functions of Bichari

Interrogation of Parties

Their Primary duty is to interrogate parties in court face to face when a debtor is brought in by the Police. The Ditha and Bicharis ask if the debtor acknowledges the debt alleged against him and if he is willing to discharge it immediately.

If the debtor admits the debt but cannot pay it immediately, the creditor is asked to wait a few days. If the creditor cannot wait, one of the policemen of the court is attached to the debtor to produce the money in court.

Determination of Property

The Bichari is also in charge of valuing the items that the debtor produces to pay off the loan. Then, in order to help them evaluate the items, the Ditha and Bicharis bring in three or four merchants.

If the parties have agreed to settle the matter and the defendant admits the cause of action, then 5% of the property is taken from one party and 10% from the other.

Investigated Truthfulness

They have to establish the authenticity of the plaintiff’s claim (The Complainer) when the defendant denies the debt. The Ditha and Bicharis interrogate the plaintiff and ask how he proposes to establish his claim.

The plaintiff must legally promise to pursue his claim in court. The defendant must either accept the plaintiff’s pledge or make a comparable promise to appear in court as scheduled until the trial is over.

Oversee Ordeals

Although ordeals were rare in Nepal, they have to be relied upon in some cases. The Responsibility to oversee Ordeals was given to Bichari. The names of the respective parties are inscribed on two pieces of paper, then rolled up into balls, and puja is offered to them.

The parties pay a fee and the balls are attached to the staff of Reed. The reeds are then taken to the Queen’s Tank by two Police Officers of the court, a Bichari of the court, a Brahmin, and the parties, where they undergo the ordeal.

The Ditha and Bicharis urge the parties to find another way to settle their differences without going through with the experience; if they don’t give up, the ordeal is carried out.

( Derived From Hodgson Account of Police and Law in Nepal)

Conclusion

Bichari were District Administrators of Gorkha. Their Major Duties included gathering evidence, questioning suspects, identifying property, checking for veracity, and supervising ordeals.

Citation

Pokhrel, A. (2023). Bichari – Itihasaa. Encyclopedia of Nepali History. https://itihasaa.com/gorkha/bichari/