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Defence team questions legality of charge against police officers in Nirmala case

  • The case was registered after the expiry of three-month statute of limitation, defence lawyers argue
- NAYAK PAUDEL, Kathmandu

Mar 14, 2019-

The prosecutor and defence attorneys on Wednesday argued over the legitimacy of the case lodged on March 6 by the Kanchanpur District Attorney Office at the Kanchanpur District Court against eight police officers charged with tampering the evidence in connection with Nirmala Pant’s rape and murder case and torturing an innocent to frame him as the major culprit.

The case for tampering the evidence has been filed against eight police officers–the then chief of Kanchanpur police SP Dilli Raj Bista, DSP duo Angur GC and Gyan Bahadur Shetty, Inspectors Jagadish Bhatta and Ekindra Khadka, Sub-inspector Hari Singh Dhami, Assistant Sub-inspector Ram Singh Dhami and Constable Chadani Saud.

Similarly, the case of torture has been filed against Bista, GC, Shetty and Khadka for torturing mentally ill Dilip Singh Bista in police custody.

Since Bista and GC were absent at the hearing on Wednesday, the court has issued an order asking the duo to appear in the court within 21 days.

“During the hearing on Wednesday, the defence claimed that the case filed by the prosecutors is not legitimate since the statute of limitation had already expired,” Hari Krishna Awasthi, registrar at the Kanchanpur District Court, told the Post. “The court will issue its verdict in the case on Thursday.”

As per the Criminal Code, which came into effect from August 17 last year, the statute of limitation for tampering evidence or torturing an innocent is three months since the incident.

Prosecutors have, however, ruled out the defense’s claim that the accused were trying to escape from the crime by any means.

“The evidence was tampered by the investigating team. How could they ever reveal it? Unless they would have revealed it, how could the case get filed?” Mohani Prasad Joshi, assistant joint-attorney at the District Attorney Office, Kanchanpur, told the Post.

“We filed the case after the victim’s mother reported the incident at the District Police Office. She had believed that the accused in tampering the evidence would face action from the government but since she had no option, she took the step of filing the case,” said Joshi.

Durga Devi Pant, the mother of Nirmala, had filed a case against eight police officers on December 17 last year for tampering the evidence. Similarly, Khadak Singh Bista, brother of Dilip Singh Bista, had also filed a case at the district police against Bista, GC, Shetty and Khadka for torturing his brother.

According to senior advocates, the case would not have been registered in the court if they had tried to file it before the Criminal Code came in effect.

“There were no provisions under which the case could have been filed then.  But once the Code came in effect, the District Attorney Office should have filed the case at the earliest,” Senior Advocate Radheshyam Adhikari said.

The accused police officers and the defence lawyers have remained firm on their argument and have said that the case needs to be dismissed as it is against the law.

“The case has been filed after three months which is against the law and it should be dismissed. After the case is dismissed, we will start the process for reinstatement,” Dilli Raj Bista told the Post in a phone interview. “We have not absconded. We will appear before the court before the deadline.”

The Home Ministry on October 25 had sacked Dilli Raj Bista and Jagadish Bhatta for tampering the evidence. Inspector General Sarbendra Khanal had recommended the action based on the reports of the enquiry teams, including that of AIG Dhiru Basnyat, formed to look into the Kanchanpur police’s dubious role while investigating the case.

The team, led by AIG Basnyat, in the report, had revealed that police officers involved in the initial investigation admitted to their negligence as well as their failed bid to frame Dilip Singh Bista.

“Since our report has shown their involvement in tampering the evidence and their failure in framing an innocent as the major culprit, they will be facing departmental action even if they are released by the court by dismissing the case,” SSP Uttam Raj Subedi, spokesperson for Nepal Police, told the Post.

It has already been 230 days since 13-year-old Nirmala was raped and murdered, but police are still nowhere near the perpetrator/s.

“The investigation is ongoing,” said DSP Krishna Ojha of the Kanchanpur Police.

Published: 14-03-2019 08:14

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