Police officers investigating Nirmala Panta rape and murder case have been sacked for mishandling case

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Oct 25, 2018-

The Home Ministry on Thursday sacked suspended Kanchanpur police chief SP Dilliraj Bista and Inspector Jagadish Prasad Bhatta from service with immediate effect for mishandling initial probe into the July rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Pant.

Though the government removed the two officers following widespread criticism and public outrage, they will be eligible for government service in future, according to the Home Ministry.

The decision came after the clarifications furnished by Bista and Bhatta were not conceiving. Both the officers had denied negligence on their part while investigating the case. The ministry removed them from service based on the Nepal Police Regulations.

After an initial investigation revealed that Bista and Bhatta destroyed evidence in the rape and murder case, and failed to address the grievances of the victim's relatives and stakeholders, the Nepal Police Headquarters suspended Bista on August 26 and Bhatta on September 16. The ministry had also formed a high-level team headed by Joint-secretary Hari Prasad Mainali to find out facts about the fate of Nirmala who disappeared from her house in Bhimdutta Municipality on July 26. Her body was found the next day.

Even after widespread protests, the ministry and the police force have failed to trace the culprits. Inspector General Sarbendra Khanal, on October 15, had recommended that the ministry sack the duo for their dubious roles. IG Khanal had also met the victim's parents during his field visit in the face of growing public outrage.

The police failed to meet the minimum requirements of investigation and destroyed the evidence of rape and murder, the Home Ministry stated. Nirmala's inner garments had disappeared and her genital area was washed in an apparent bid to destroy the evidence. It also stated that the local police unit had written to the Nepal Police Forensic Laboratory to change the sample--a set of blue undergarments and brown jeans.

Also read: Family mourns, and a country recoils at teen girl’s rape and murder

Citing the Mainali-led committee, the ministry said the Pant family and their relatives were coerced into cremating the victim's body while the local police had used excessive force to contain protests in Kanchanpur following the incident.

Bista and Bhatta were the first to be recommended for dismissal among the two dozen officials subjected to investigation by the team led by Additional Inspector General Dhiru Basnyat for gross mishandling of the rape case. The recommendation followed the analysis of the report submitted by the Mainali committee, IG Khanal's field visit and preliminary briefing by AIG Basnyat.

The ministry had asked the two officers to clarify why they should not be sacked, first on October 21 and then on October 24 after their response was not satisfactory.

The final report by the Basnyat panel is expected to recommend the dismissal of some more officers, who were found to have tampered with the evidence at the scene where Nirmala’s body was found. SP Bista was also accused of parading an innocent-- 41-year-old mentally ill Dilip Singh Bista--as the major culprit.

Published: 25-10-2018 20:02

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