EDITORIAL: Uphold rule of law

No matter how serious a case is, it is the court of law that has the ultimate power to pronounce the accused guilty

With the killing of two abductors – Gopal Tamang, 22, of Samari village of Nuwakot and Ajay Tamang, 23, of Karthali, Sindhupalchowk – in a “police encounter” in the jungle of Suryabinayak, Bhaktapur on Monday, the evidence of their alleged involvement in abducting and killing of an 11-year-old boy, Nishan Khadka, a resident of Pepsicola, has also been lost. Police have claimed the Tamang boys were “killed in an encounter after they tried to run away” after killing Nishan, a sixth grader at a local private school. However, the local witnesses and even the owner of the house where the Tamang duo had rented rooms claimed the police personnel, who found Nishan’s body being buried in a pit dug for laying the foundation of an under-construction house belonging to a local at Nagadesh Tole, Madhyapur Thimi, had arrested the accused from the rented room and beaten up them mercilessly. Nishan, the son of Ganesh Bahadur Khadka and Chameli Khdka, had gone missing at 4:30 pm on Sunday. Chameli, who knew the abductors for years as they used to visit her eatery almost every day, had received a phone call on Sunday night from the alleged abductors to demand a ransom of four million to release her son.

This is not the first of such incident where the law enforcement agency has killed the main accused in the name of “police encounter”. It may be noted that Manoj Pun and his accomplice Som Bahadur Ale were killed in an encounter in Rupandehi’s Devdaha area on February 21, 2018. Both of them were brought from Goa, India one day before their killing. Pravin Khatri was also killed in the same manner in Lalitpur on August 7, 2017. Kumar Shrestha aka “Ghainte” was shot dead in broad daylight on August 20, 2015 and, Dinesh Adhikari aka “Chari” was killed on August 6, 2014. In all these encounters, police have issued ready-made statements, saying “they were killed in self-defence and no police personnel were injured in the encounter though the accused opened fire at them”.

There was no doubt that the above-mentioned persons had committed murders; engaged in extortion and other offences before they were shot dead in the encounters. They were also on the run and were “most wanted” by the police. In all the cases, victims’ family members, including Nishan’s mother, had filed FIRs in the police demanding legal action against the perpetrators. Hence, all evidence related to Nishan’s abduction and murder has been wiped out once and for all with the killing of the Tamang duo. The police had already captured them from their room. The police could have produced them before the court of law for trial. In this case also, the law enforcement agency, it seems, has taken law unto its own hands. This is a matter of serious concern that the police have failed to follow due course of law. No matter how serious a case is, it is the court of law that has the ultimate power to pronounce the accused guilty. Who will establish the fact that the Tamang boys were criminals after their extrajudicial killing? Getting rid of a crime-accused without letting them a chance of fair trial will kill the very spirit of rule of law. The victim’s family will also be deprived of getting compensation from the murder accused as per the new criminal code coming into force from August 17.

Saving rhinos

There was a time when thousands of one-horned rhinos used to roam the Tarai region, but in the later part of the last century, their number came down so significantly that it stood at around only 100 or so – all due to rampant poaching and human encroachment on their habitats. But over the last 10-15 years, Nepal has a significant stride in the conservation of one-horned rhinos, with their number at the last count standing at 645.

But pressure is still on this endangered species. Last year’s floods in the Chitwan National Park (CNP), which houses the highest number of one-horned rhinos in the country, wreaked havoc on the wildlife there. Some rhinos were even swept across the border. As monsoon is at its peak, rare one-horned rhinos are once again at risk of being swept away or killed. Currently, rhinos are in the area located between the Narayani River, Chure hill and an Indian human settlement and the area is considered dangerous for them. That the CNP is planning to move one-horned rhinos from areas which are considered dangerous to safe locations is but welcome news.