Kathmandu, December 10

The Sustainable Development and Good Governance Committee of the National Assembly today directed Inspector General of Police Sarbendra Khanal to immediately arrest and book those responsible for the rape and murder of 13-year old Nirmala Panta. The panel issued the directive after quizzing him on the deteriorating law and order situation.

Chair of the committee Tara Devi Bhatta instructed Nepal Police to be more vigilant, Dasarath Dhamala, under-secretary of the committee, told THT after the meeting. Lawmakers representing both the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and opposition parties expressed their anguish and frustration over the failure of police to nab those responsible for the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta.

NC lawmaker Ramesh Jung Raymajhi wondered if powerful people wanted to protect culprits in Nirmala’s case as was the case in the murder of Namita-Sunita committed during Panchayat regime. “The government may have used the police chief to protect powerful people. CIB also works in the interest of the IGP,” he said. “Are you hiding the truth because you fear that you could be removed from your post?” he asked Khanal.

He added that the destruction of evidence in the rape and murder of Nirmala indicated the possibility of involvement of powerful people.

NC lawmaker Sarita Prasai wondered, “What is preventing police from conducting fair investigation?”

Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal lawmaker Pramila Kumari said if Khanal was unable to provide security to the public then he should resign from his post. She said attempts were being made to shield culprits and frame innocent people.

Nirmala, who had gone to the Bam sisters’ house in Bhimdutta Municipality of Kanchanpur on July 26, was found murdered in a nearby sugarcane field the next day.  Police have not been able to arrest the guilty even after four-and-a-half months.

NCP lawmaker Bimala Rai Paudel demanded that police officers who botched up the probe should be sent to custody till the cases against them were adjudicated. She also demanded that the probe committees update the public about progress in the investigation every day.

NCP lawmaker Mukta Kumari Yadav said her son was hacked to death in Dhanusha on March 16, but police had not been able to nab the culprit(s). She said Khanal should clarify his stance on news reports which claim that suspects arrested in Nirmala’s case were not present in the area on the day the incident happened.

NCP lawmakers Kali Bahadur Malla, Mahesh Mahara and Kabita Bogati also criticised police for failing to maintain law and order.

Khanal told the panel that detectives had made a headway in Nirmala’s case. He, however, said he was not in a position to give the exact date when detectives would be able to crack the case. “We are trying our best. We are not under any pressure. If you find me erring in this investigation, you can write me off,” he said.

Meanwhile, police arrested 25 human rights activists, including founder chair of Human Rights and Peace Society-Nepal, for protesting in front of the official residence of the prime minister, demanding justice for Nirmala. They were, however, released in the evening.