NHRC glare on flaws in police investigation

Kathmandu, January 23

After two months of investigation, a high-level probe team formed by the National Human Rights Commission has concluded that additional investigation is required to identify those responsible for the rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta of Kanchanpur district.

The culprit(s) in the rape-and-murder case could not be identified just on the basis of DNA tests as the DNA sample (vaginal swab of the victim) was contaminated and was collected in less than the required quantity, concluded the team that submitted its report to NHRC Chairman Anup Raj Sharma on January 13, two months after its formation on November 13.

Nirmala, a resident of Bhimdutta Municipality of Kanchanpur, was raped and murdered on July 26 and police are still clueless about the culprit(s).

The NHRC today held discussions on the report and decided to issue directives and recommendations to the government on the basis of its probe report by tomorrow morning, according to NHRC Spokesperson Bed Prasad Bhattarai. The NHRC had also discussed the report two days ago, but could not reach a conclusion then.

The report has also concluded that investigators were not serious and conducted the probe carelessly from the very beginning. Police were careless as they arrested people without enough evidence, which is not good from human rights perspective, according to Bhattarai.

It states that investigators did not clearly study whether the victim had any injury marks or bruises. They did not even cordon the entire area where her body was lying and her bicycle was found, but cordoned the areas separately. The report adds that investigators did not follow due procedures related to forensic science during the probe. It has recommended institutional reforms to avoid repeat of such shoddy investigation in the future.

A member of the NHRC expressed surprise that the team could not come up with any new finding despite a two-month study. “This is probably because we don’t have that expertise to solve such cases,” the member said.

The report lacks in-depth information to reach a conclusion, but has just identified lapses in the course of the investigation, the member said.

Members of the team led by former deputy attorney general Narendra Pathak include former AIG of police Bigyan Raj Sharma, forensic expert Harihar Osti and DNA expert Dinesh Jha.