Victims of police torture deprived of justice

Kathmandu, February 3

Although the new penal code has criminalised torture, many victims of torture have not been able to get justice as they have to file the first information report with the nearest police office whose police personnel are often the perpetrators.

Programme Manager of Advocacy Forum Bikas Basnet said his office had been trying to assist victims in Kanchanpur, Pokhara and Kathmandu to file torture cases against police officers, who tortured them, but the police officers refused to register the FIR.

Section 167 (2) of the penal code imposes jail term not exceeding five years or fine not exceeding Rs 50,000 or both for meting out torture to anybody.

Basnet said that in some cases the Office of the Attorney General had written to the police office telling it to register FIR, and yet the police offices were reluctant to oblige. In the absence of FIR, investigation against police officers accused of torture cannot proceed.

Human rights lawyer Mohan Kumar Karna said criminalisation of torture happened after persistent struggle of rights activists, but the legal provision that required the torture victims to file FIR at the nearest police office was proving an obstacle as many torture victims were either intimidated by police officers or given financial incentives for not filing FIR. He said torture victims could file cases directly at the court but many victims found it a complicated process. Some torture victims chose not to file cases against police personnel because they feared that the police personnel might frame them in criminal cases.

“We have seen in the past when victims moved the court, the court gave ruling in the victims’ favour telling the police to register their FIRs. In some cases, police offices register their FIRs after the court’s ruling, but even then the investigation does not move ahead in the expected manner,” he said.

Basnet and Karna said the problems faced by torture victims could be addressed only when a separate agency was formed to investigate torture allegations levelled against police personnel.

Basnet said the investigating police officer in Pokhara was a police inspector but the victim was tortured by a DSP.

“How can a lower rank police officer investigate torture allegation against his/her senior officer?” he wondered.

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus in a case filed by advocate Sunil Ranjan Singh and others against the government where petitioners had urged the court to order the government to form a separate commission authorising it to investigate cases of extra judicial killings that took place in the past in the Tarai districts. The SC is yet to prepare the full text of the verdict.