The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to release murder convict Charles Sobhraj, currently serving a sentence at the Central Jail, Kathmandu.

The 78-year-old French national who has served 19 years in prison for the murders of an American and a Canadian backpacker in 1975 will be allowed to return to France within 15 days unless he is to be held for some other offense.

Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years, however, Sobhraj had sought remission of his jail sentence on grounds of being a senior citizen.

A division bench of Justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Tilprasad Shrestha issued the order in response to the habeas corpus petition filed by Sobhraj.

Sobhraj, who earned nicknames “The Serpent” and “Bikini Killer’, was convicted of two murder cases in Nepal and has been in prison since 2003 after he was arrested by Nepal Police from Casino Royale.

Sobhraj has been linked to more than 20 killings between 1972 and 1982, in which the victims were drugged, strangled, beaten, or burned; and often used the passports of his male victims to travel to his next destination.

Sobhraj had filed a habeas corpus petition saying that he qualified for the remission of the sentence as he was over 70 and was suffering from a heart ailment.

Sobhraj underwent a heart operation in 2017, and Wednesday’s verdict said he shall remain in regular treatment for his heart disease.