Investigation against Mahara should go on, opine lawyers

Kathmandu, October 2

Legal experts say police cannot stop their investigation into the allegation of rape against Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who resigned as speaker yesterday, just because the accuser Roshani Shahi, a staffer at the Parliament Secretariat, retracted her statement.

Senior Advocate Satish Krishna Kharel said police had to complete preliminary investigation in the case after which they could decide either to close the case or carry on further investigation into the case.

Kharel said existing laws were enough to deal with challenges posed by Shahi’s retraction.

“Police launched investigation into a rape case in Kathmandu recently even when the victim had not lodged an FIR. In the case handled by Durbar Marg police post, the victim lodged an FIR three months after the incident,” said Kharel.

He said police investigation needed to determine whether the rape happened or whether Shahi did all this to blackmail Mahara.

If Mahara is innocent as he has claimed, he can get a clean chit only after police investigation finds no corroborative evidence against him. Asked if Shahi could face action for retracting her statement, Kharel said, “There are precedents where accusers have been punished by the court for retracting their statements in the court, but this case has not reached the court yet.”

He said Shahi’s refusal to lodge an FIR and to undergo physical examination posed challenge in gathering the most effective evidence, but there were other tools such as forensic examination, examining call details and tracing of Mahara’s location on Sunday night that police could rely on to complete the investigation and reach a conclusion.

Victims often retract their statements or turn hostile in the court due to fear of reprisal, coercion or inducements, said Kharel.

Criminal lawyer Gopal Krishna Ghimire said police could easily gather other evidences by interviewing security personnel deployed for the security of Mahara on Sunday night when Shahi claimed she was sexually assaulted to ascertain whether Mahara was at Shahi’s residence around that time.

Rajit Bhakta Pradhananga, who specialises in criminology, said there was no option for the police but to complete the probe which they had already started. “If Shahi does not come to the court, it could weaken the case, but the case must reach a conclusion,” he added. He said anybody can lodge FIR on behalf of Shahi.

Pradhananga said persons who Roshani Shahi told that she was raped by Mahara on Sunday night could face punishment if they did not inform police. There are media reports about Shahi ‘informing some people about the incident who did not inform the police about the same.’

As per Section 96 of the new penal code, if a person comes to know that a crime has happened or there is a possibility of the commission of a crime, but does not inform authorities concerned or gives false information about the crime, then such a person can face jail term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding Rs 20,000.