Custodial death shrouded in mystery

Kathmandu, November 14

The custodial death of 48-year-old Rabindra Kumar Dhungana, a resident of Tarakeshwar Municipality, has raised questions after Assistant Sub-Inspector Surendra Karki, who accompanied the police team to arrest him, allegedly paid Rs 2.7 million to the deceased’s family.

Although the police said the victim died due to his medical condition, the alleged transaction of Rs 2.7 million makes the case mysterious. More so because  Karki had lent Rs 5 lakh to Dhungana’s wife two years ago and had been trying to recoup his loan from the Dhungana family. He had no reason to pay Rs 2.7 million to the deceased’s wife.

Karki, who works at Police Hospital, Maharajgunj, could not be reached for comments.

DSP Hobindra Bogati of Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, released a statement issued by the deceased’s wife, Annapurna Thapa Dhungana,  wherein she has claimed that the report of ASI Karki paying her Rs 2.7 million was false, baseless and aimed at undermining her family’s prestige. When THT contacted Annapurna, she said, “I am mourning the death of my husband. I cannot talk to you.”

Karki, who had lent money to Dhungana at a very high interest rate, lodged an FIR against Dhungana at Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, after a cheque given by him bounced. Karki accompanied the police team that went to arrest Dhungana on November 4.

Dhungana had undergone open heart surgery and suffered from seizure, hypertension and diabetes.  DSP Bogati said Dhungana suffered seizure attack on the morning of November 5 and was rushed to  Bir Hospital where he died at around 12:30 pm.

Bogati said Dhungana was taken to Balaju-based People’s General Hospital for the mandatory medical check-up before he was sent to custody on November 4.

“Dhungana did not tell us about his medical condition,” claimed Bogati.

Bogati said police did not have time to produce him before the district court, which was mandatory, as ASI Karki and Dhungana tried to settle the issues themselves in the police office.

Annapurna had refused to accept the body of her husband for six days, accusing the police of wrongdoing, but sources said she accepted the body after Karki allegedly paid Rs 2.7 million to her.

DSP Mohan Kumar Thapa of MPR, Teku, said Mayor of Tarakeshwar Municipality Rameshwar Bohora might have played a role in brokering a deal between Annapurna and Karki as he accompanied her to police offices, Bir Hospital and Teaching Hospital.

When reached for comment, Mayor Bohora reacted angrily: “I do not know the victim. Nor do I know anything about the case. You better contact the ward chair.”

A police officer did not show this scribe full details of the post-mortem report but showed the cause of death, a part of the autopsy report that read: coronary artery disease with pre-existing ischemic heart disease (characterised by the reduced blood supply to the heart).

Police have formed a three-member probe team under SSP Puja Singh of Rani Pokhari police unit to investigate the death of Dhungana. Singh told THT that she would investigate the cause of death and alleged transaction of money between ASI Karki and the deceased’s wife.

Unanswered questions

  • Why would Assistant Sub-inspector Karki, who had lent Rs 5 lakh to the deceased Dhungana’s wife, pay her

    Rs 2.7 million as has been alleged?

  • What made Dhungana’s wife accept his body after six days of refusing to do so?
  • Deceased’s wife Annapurna Thapa Dhungana has, however, refuted allegations that she accepted any money from ASI Karki