Probe panel report kept under wraps

Kathmandu, September 25

A high-level investigation committee formed to probe the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta in Kanchanpur district submitted its final report to Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa today, but the findings remain under wraps.

The five-member committee headed by joint secretary and director general of the Department of Prison Management Hari Prasad Mainali handed over the report to Thapa behind  closed doors. The media was neither given any access nor briefed on the contents of the report, believed to contain some 100 pages or more. A photograph of Minister Thapa receiving the report was released though.

Indrajit Rai, security adviser to Minister Thapa and a retired Nepali Army colonel, gave a weak explanation in defence of the government.  “The ministry did not make public the report or its findings in view of the  parallel investigations under way and other measures being taken to nab the culprits,” Rai added.  “The report contains detailed information with reference to the crime suspects, besides recommendations to chalk out strategies for result-oriented investigation. Release of the report or any detail will only help the culprits escape,” he reasoned.

Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, however, contradicted Rai’s statement. “The report does not categorically identify who the perpetrators are,” he told THT.

Mainali side-stepped the issue. “The report has been submitted to the line ministry. It is not appropriate for me to speak to the media about it,” he said. “The report has nothing special to share. Now, police will identify the culprits,” he said.

“The final report submitted by the Mainali panel contains case study of the crime, statements of locals, irregularities found in immediate police investigation under the leadership of SP Dilliraj Bista with the backing of a team of DSP Angur GC of Central Investigation Bureau and the details of all suspects in the crime,” a MoHA source told THT. MoHA sources privately revealed that  the report had found faults in criminal investigation by the suspended SP and his team.

The report stated that SP Bista did not mobilise cops to search for Nirmala immediately after police were alerted about her having gone missing. Similarly, he never went to the crime scene to create a clear picture of specific crime evidences, deciding to destroy them instead. The report also found that SP Bista ordered firing at peaceful protesters without consent of the then chief district officer Kumar Bahadur Khadka and roughed up the victim’s family, locals and political leaders in Kanchanpur, according to the source.

The ministry  is expected to forward the report to a probe panel led by Additional Inspector General Dhiru Basnyat. Police officials, including SP Bista, may be dismissed from service by rendering them disqualified to hold any government position.