High-profile culprits skip police custody on medical grounds

Kathmandu, December 2

On November 5, last year, Rabindra Kumar Dhungana, 48, a resident of Tarakeshwar Municipality, died in police custody at Metropolitan Police Range, Teku.

Dhungana, who had undergone open heart surgery a few years ago, was a patient of seizure disorder, hypertension and diabetes. He was arrested a day before his death. He was arrested for not paying a loan amount of Rs five lakh taken from Surendra Karki, an assistant sub-Inspector of Nepal Police, who had lent Dhungana the money around two years ago.

The case was closed after ASI Karki offered Rs 2.7 million to the deceased Karki’s wife. Dhungana’s case illustrates how the general public are treated in police custody. They are totally insensitive towards the health condition of the general public who are sent to police custody.

But when it comes to high-profile cases, police become more sensitive to their health conditions and they are given a different treatment in police custody. A number of recent cases show that high-profile culprits avoid police custody on medical grounds

Rape-accused Krishnadas Giri, a spiritual guru popularly known as Siddhababa, receiving treatment in Birat Nursing Home in Biratnagar, Morang, on Sunday. Photo: THT
Rape-accused Krishnadas Giri, a spiritual guru popularly known as Siddhababa, receiving treatment in Birat Nursing Home in Biratnagar, Morang, on Sunday. Photo: THT

The ongoing case of spiritual leader Krishna Bahadur Giri, aka  Siddhababa Jagat Guru Krishnadas Maharaj, is a recent example. An attempt to rape case was filed against him on November 29 at Sunsari District Police Office. An arrest warrant was issued in his name, but before police could arrest him he was admitted to Biratnagar-based Birat Nursing Home due to some health complications. Police reached the hospital, but had to return empty-handed.

The court today decided to keep Giri in four-day police custody, but police were unable to keep him in custody as the hospital stated that Giri needed a few more days’ rest to recover from a cardiac arrest.

Another instance of police generosity is the case of Krishna Bahadur Mahara, former speaker of the House of Representatives. He was arrested on October 6 on the charge of attempt to rape. But within a few days of his arrest he was shifted from police custody to Norvic Hospital on medical grounds. He avoided police custody for a month until Kathmandu District Court decided to send him to judicial custody until the final verdict.

Yet another similar case was that of Naresh Thapa, younger brother of Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. He was shifted to Basundhara-based Chirayu Hospital showing some health issues after his arrest on September 8. Nepal Police’s Central Investigation Bureau had arrested Thapa suspecting his connection with an extortion racket spearheaded by gangster Samirman Singh Basnet from behind bars. He was later released on Rs 100,000 bail. The list does not end here. Police had arrested 25 persons for illegal gambling and seized Rs 26.7 million from a house in Kathmandu metropolis on October 26. Of them, 10 high-profile persons were moved to various hospitals after remaining in police custody for a couple of days.

Lava Mainali, a criminal lawyer, said although every individual who was in police custody had the right to seek medical help if required, but this provision had been largely exploited by high-profile culprits to avoid police custody. “I have seen many cases where police or the court  have denied medical help to the accused,” he added.

Sanjiv Raj Regmi, spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General, said it was normal for any accused to seek medical help if necessary, but police should be careful that culprits did not exploit this provision to influence the case. “Normally, the accused are kept in police custody so that they cannot influence or weaken the case filed against them,” Regmi added.