Delayed justice raises questions


A 13-year-old girl who went to her friend's place on 26 July, 2018, never made it home. She was found lifeless at a sugarcane field close to her home the next day.

Her autopsy report later suggested that she had been sexually assaulted prior to being murdered.

Three years have passed since Nirmala Panta of Bhimdatta Municipality-2 in Kanchanpur district was raped and murdered, but whereabouts of the culprit(s) is yet to be known.

Protests flared not only in Kanchanpur but other districts including capital for justice in the weeks and months following Nirmala's death, however, to no avail.

In one of the protests in Mahendranagar, a 14-year-old boy, Sunny Khunna, was killed in a clash while more people were injured in multiple protests that were organised in succession.

Investigating officers, on August 20 in the same year, paraded 41-year-old Dilip Singh Bista as the culprit. However, locals of Kanchanpur protested against police administration following the revelation claiming that the accused who was was unsound of mental health, could not have been the culprit, and that the police have framed him to hide their incompetence in solving the case.

Later, the accused was released on September 12 on general date after his DNA test report did not match Nirmala's post-mortem DNA profile.

As police were studying the case from various angles and rounding up suspects, Bam sisters (Nirmal Panta's friend and her sister, whom she met on the day of the incident) were taken into custody for interrogation, on August 25, for their alleged involvement in the case.

Owing to lack of sufficient evidence, the sisters were freed in September.

In course of probe proceedings, fingers were also pointed at Kanchanpur District Police Superintendent (SP) Dilliraj Bista, who was later suspended, as claims of the involvement of his son and another local youth started emerging. Their DNA samples were collected for testing.

On September 30, Police made public that their DNA did not match with Nirmala's swab sample.

SP Bista, however, was relieved from his position in November.

Two other suspects hailing from the same district were arrested on December 4. They were eventually released after 18 days.

On December 18, Nirmala's mother Durga Devi and primary accused Dilip Singh Bista's elder brother jointly filed a case against police personnel involved in preliminary investigation.

Thenafter, about three months later, in 2019, Kanchanpur District Court ordered the release of six police personnel who had been detained.

Meanwhile, the court also issued a notice to SP Dilliraj Bista and DSP Angoor GC, who headed the investigations, to appear before the court within 21 days.

The two presented themselves before court on March 19, 2019 but were released on bail on March 24.

Despite all the procedures and protests, justice has evaded Nirmala and her family who wait for at least some progress in the case as days pass by, despite all odds.

The family members and kin of Nirmala Panta are disappointed in lack of justice for the young victim of the gravest crime imaginable.

Nirmala's mother has argued time and again that the culprits are still at large as the investigation was only based on the swab specimen tests.

She demanded that the investigation should be conducted with various possible methods. She lamented that a young boy died and several others sustained injuries for the cause of the justice pursued, but in vain.