KATHMANDU: The State Affairs Committee of the Legislature-Parliament on Friday directed the government not to confer the power to issue arrest warrant against crime suspects and prosecute them on the Armed Police Force.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, the line ministry of Nepal Police and the APF, had recently proposed an amendment to the Armed Police Force Rules, 2014 to allow the paramilitary force to issue arrest warrant against suspects and conduct crime investigation. Only Nepal Police has been exercising the power in the country. SAC had summoned Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bamdev Gautam to inquire about the proposal to amend the APF Rules.
Today’s SAC meeting presided over by its Chairman Dil Bahadur Gharti directed DPM and Minister for Home Affairs Gautam not to allow policing functions to the paramilitary force, saying that the move will ‘give rise to jurisdiction disputes between NP and APF’.
During today’s meeting, raising concerns about the bid to allow the APF to take over policing functions, SAC members viewed it as a ploy to weaken the NP’s functions, duties and powers.
Ramesh Lekhak of the Nepali Congress objected to the proposal and warned that such ‘could reinforce the APF to overpower NP’.
Rabindra Pratap Shah, who is also a former Inspector General of Police, said the APF should only be allowed to arrest the crime suspect as is provided in the APF Act, 2001. “The power to issue arrest warrant is with an investigating officer (police official) or a judge. Therefore, the APF should not be allowed to issue arrest warrant against crime suspects,” he said.
Yubaraj Gyawali of CPN-UML suggested that it was not appropriate to fuel disputes between two government agencies in the name of granting more power to a paramilitary force to issue arrest warrant against crime suspects. In response, DPM and Minister for Home Affairs Gautam claimed that there were no serious disputes between the NP and APF as reported in the media over the proposed APF Rules. “MoHA is convinced to delete the phrase ‘crime investigation’ from the Rules in a manner to allow the APF to issue arrest warrant only. The government is not trying to snatch the powers of NP to pass them to the APF ,” said Gautam, adding, “(As per the new rule) APF personnel arrest the suspects and hand them over to NP for prosecution.”
The existing APF Act allows paramilitary personnel to arrest crime suspects without ‘arrest warrant’ and entrust them to local police as soon as possible for prosecution. “The government mulled over granting the APF power to issue arrest warrant after national and international human rights organisations opposed the arrest of crime suspects without prior information,” he said.
Minister Gautam informed that the proposal was now with the Bills Sub-Committee of the Cabinet for making necessary changes.
Earlier, various rights activists and civil society leaders had opposed the government move, saying that it ‘will be against the formation objectives of the paramilitary force and an invasion on the jurisdiction of Nepal Police which is the only law enforcement agency authorised to look into crime investigation’.
The APF was founded in 2001 to combat terrorism, cope with natural disasters, provide security to VIPs and industrial sector and control trans-border crimes.
A version of this article appears in print on March 30, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.