Government fails to give concrete answer on Nirmala Pant rape and murder probeHome Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa went on the defensive in Parliament when asked about the status of the investigation.
It has been six months since the rape and murder of Nirmala Pant, a 13-year-old girl from Kanchanpur, but the government appears clueless on the status of the investigation as Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa failed on Wednesday to furnish a concrete answer to the House.
During the question-answer session in Parliament, opposition lawmakers asked Thapa about the investigation into Pant’s rape and murder and the progress officials have made so far.
“Sincere efforts are being made to solve the case, but I cannot give you a timeline when the investigation will be completed,” Thapa told the House. “We are committed to bringing the culprit(s) to book. But the investigation into some incidents takes time; it might take years.”
Pant was found dead in a sugarcane field in Bhimdatta Municipality, Kanchanpur, on July 27, a day after she went missing. Multiple committees formed to probe into the case and review the investigation process had concluded that police officials were careless from the very start—from securing the crime scene to following due procedure.
The incident led to nationwide protests, which continue till date.
The government’s handling of the case also has drawn criticism, as government ministers on various occasions made unsubstantiated comments—ranging from “police are close to concluding the investigation” to “police have already identified the culprits.”
The home minister told the House last year in August that police were close to catching the culprit(s) and that the guilty would be made public “soon”.
Reminding Thapa of that statement, Rastriya Prajatantra Party lawmaker Rajendra Lingden asked him on what basis he had told the House that police were close to concluding the investigation. In response, Thapa said he had given the statement based on the information his office had from police.
At that time, police had arrested Dilip Singh Bista and projected him as the culprit. But later, Bista was found to be innocent.
In addition to Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Ishwor Pokhrel, while addressing a programme in Lalitpur on December 8 had said there was a breakthrough in Nirmala rape and murder investigation and that culprits would be made public soon.
On Wednesday, Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa asked why a senior government minister had made a false claim, to which the home minister said he and his ministry were unaware of any such statement by Pokhrel.
Some lawmakers also asked if the culprit(s) had any connection with Singha Durbar and Baluwatar and if that was the reason there had been no progress in the investigation.
“Police have resolved over 95 percent of cases related to violence against women,” the home minister said. “It would be wrong to make generalised statements, taking five percent unresolved cases into account.”
Parliamentarians also asked the home minister about an August 6 police encounter in the Valley in which two persons were killed.
Ajay Tamang, 23, a resident of Nuwakot, and Gopal Tamang, 22, from Sindhupalchok, who were absconding after kidnapping and murdering a child from Kathmandu, were killed in police action.
The families of the Tamang duo have been claiming they were killed after their arrest. They had also registered a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission, which is investigating into the case for more than five months.
Four days after the police action, Thapa had promised to probe into the case. On Wednesday, while responding to lawmakers, he said the kidnappers were killed when the police opened fire in self-defence.