EDITORIAL: Take strong action

As an institution, Nepal Police cannot escape from taking legal action against erring policemen involved in Poudel’s extra-judicial killing

Extra-judicial killings by the law enforcement agency in the guise of ‘encounters’ not only renders the judicial system dysfunctional, but also promotes the culture of impunity, leading to gross human rights violation in the society. If the officials responsible for maintaining law and order are not held accountable for their actions, the chain of command within the institution will also collapse, and the general public will no longer trust it in the long run. Taking this into account, the Criminal Code, 2017 has clearly stated that even the security personnel will have to stand trial should they indulge in human rights violations, torture or extra-judicial killings.

Half a dozen people – some of them found to have engaged in criminal and extortion activities – have been killed in fake encounters in the last four years, raising the eyebrows of human rights activists, including the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The NHRC has written hundreds of letters to the Home Ministry to draw the latter’s attention towards the extra-judicial killings of people, who could have been easily produced before the court of law for trial for their involvement in crimes. But the ministry, except for a few cases, does not seem to be in the mood to take legal action against the police officials involved in the extra-judicial killing.

Against this background, the ministry on Friday directed the Nepal Police to take action against those police officers involved in the killing of Kumar Poudel, Sarlahi district incharge of the outlawed Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal, on June 20 last year.

The ministry was forced to write a letter to the police headquarters in response to a NHRC report published on October 22, 2019. The report has identified the police officials who fired nine shots to kill Poudel on the banks of Lakhandehi River. The report termed the police action as “extra-judicial killing”.

The NHRC, in its report, says Poudel was shot dead after taking him under control. The NHRC has directed the government to suspend the police officials for their involvement in Poudel’s killing and provide compensation of Rs 300,000 to his family.

This is not an isolated case. The Nepal Police has also earned a bad name for killing persons after taking them under control in the past as well. Notorious gangsters Dinesh Adhikari aka Chari, in Bhimdhunga (August 6, 2014), Kumar Shrestha aka Ghainte, in Samakhushi (August 20, 2015), Pravin Khatri, in Lalitpur (August 7, 2017), Manoj Pun and Som Bahadur Ale, in Devdaha (February 21, 2018) and Gopal Tamang and Ajay Tamang, in Bhaktapur (August 6, 2018) were all killed in fake encounters. All these incidents of extra-judicial killings show the police took the law into their hands to prevent the recurrence of criminal acts. Although the Nepal Police has said it will follow the Home Ministry’s instruction, its assertion that it cannot take action against the erring police officials involved in Poudel’s murder on the ground of the NHRC report means it is still dragging its feet in taking action against them. The killing of such persons in the name of “self-defence” without giving a fair chance to stand trial is a gross violation of the rule of law. The Nepal Police cannot escape from its duty of taking action against the erring officials.

No chicken feed

The unnatural rise in the price of chicken in the past few days has prompted the government to begin a market inspection to know the cause. From Rs 280 a kilo a month ago, the price of chicken has reached Rs 400 in the local market. Poultry firms, in a bid to put pressure on the government to raise the price of chicken, had stopped the production of chicks in their hatcheries for two weeks in December and also destroyed large quantities of ready-to-hatch eggs. The inadequate supply of chicken in the market could be a result of this.

This is the wedding season in Nepal, a time when demand for food, especially meat, suddenly goes up. So when the hosts have to pay extra for the food, it is a big financial burden. Poultry entrepreneurs are always complaining about the high cost of feed and other inputs in running a poultry firm. And they are strongly unionised in stopping cheaper chicken and eggs from entering the country. Thus, ultimately, it is the consumer who pays through the nose for poultry products, which in any country come cheap. To bring prices down, market monitoring alone will not suffice. The firms and retailers should also be penalised if they are found creating the shortage.