Govt lets loose bungling cops

Kathmandu, October 3

Public criticism and pressure continues to mount as Nepal Police shies away from taking visible action against officers who bungled while investigating the rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta.

Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa and Inspector General of Police Sarbendra Khanal have publicly spoken of malafide intentions in destroying criminal evidence and framing an innocent person as the culprit to let the real perpetrators off the hook. A report of the high-level investigation committee led by Joint Secretary Hari Prasad Mainali has also corroborated what the home minister and police chief have stated publicly.

The MoHA suspended then Kanchanpur district police chief Superintendent of Police Dilli Raj Bista, DSPs Gyan Bahadur Sethi and Angur GC, inspectors Ekendra Khadka and Jagadish Bhatta and ASI Ramsingh Dhami on the recommendations of the Mainali panel and Nepal Police.

“Though the suspended officers are under the scanner of the ‘high-powered’ probe panel headed by Additional Inspector General of Police Dhiru Basnyat and are being quizzed at the Police Headquarters ‘on a regular basis’, the law enforcement agency continues to let them roam freely, giving them ample time to regroup and destroy further evidences,” said Charan Prasai, a human rights defender and coordinator of Accountability Watch Committee.

He added that the suspended police officers should be taken into custody and treated as civilians accused of crimes to dig out the truth.

Lav Mainali, senior advocate and criminal lawyer, however, has a different take.

“They can be handcuffed and charged with criminal offences only if they were found working in collusion with culprits of the rape and murder,” he argues. “When the perpetrators have yet to be identified and arrested, the cops don’t deserve criminal charges.”

According to him, departmental action may be initiated against them for their failure to document and collect evidences, though.

On the progress of his investigation panel bringing to book the cops, AIG Basnyat declined to speak in detail and said it was working on the issue.

SSP Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, Nepal Police spokesperson, said, “The security agency will act on recommendations of the report to be submitted by the AIG Basnyat-led panel soon. If the report recommends criminal charges against the suspended and other cops, we will bring them to book accordingly. In addition, they will also be liable to departmental action, including dismissal.” The panel hasn’t been given a deadline to submit its report.

Their offence and action they face

  • Section 99 of the Criminal Code Act states: “No official authorised to conduct investigation or prosecution shall frame an innocent person and protect the real offender with malafide intention”
  • The penal code stipulates a provision of a jail-term of up to six months or a fine not exceeding Rs 5,000 or both for such investigators or prosecutors in addition to compensation to the victim
  • The penal code incriminates the cops, as they destroyed evidences and tried to frame Dilip Singh Bista as the main suspect in the rape and murder
  • Nepal Police Regulation deems their action to be an offence and allows the government to dismiss them from service by rendering them “disqualified to hold any government position in future”