Manoj Pandey, a beauty pageant organiser accused of rape, in police custodyCrime Division of Nepal Police says the alleged rapist has been arrested for an investigation.
Under pressure after widespread protests and the House directive to take swift action, police on Saturday took Manoj Pandey, who has been accused of rape by a former beauty pageant participant who aspired to be a model, into custody.
The Crime Division of Nepal Police said Pandey was arrested from the Swayambhu area in Kathmandu on Saturday afternoon.
“We have taken Manoj Pandey into custody for an investigation,” said a senior official at the crime branch on the condition of anonymity. “It is part of our investigation into the charges he faces.”
Pandey, the owner of Model Global Visas Consultancy, was arrested days after the woman on Wednesday posted a series of videos on TikTok in which she shared details of episodes wherein she was sexually harassed by multiple men, including Pandey.
In the videos, she has shared how Pandey, who was the organiser of the pageant called Miss Global International 2014, had drugged and raped her in a room of a hotel where he had invited her to a “success party” of the beauty pageant which she had participated in.
According to the survivor, the sexual abuse continued for six months.
The survivor, now 24, was 16 when she was first raped and sexually abused.
The young girl’s videos quickly drew a flurry of reactions, with people across social networks showing an immense outpouring of support and outrage.
On Saturday, protests were organised in different cities across the country, including Kathmandu, Pokhara, Itahari and Birtamode, in support of the survivor and calling for scrapping of the statute of limitations, which has emerged as a major barrier to justice for the survivors of rape and sexual harassments.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offence—civil or criminal. However, the length of time the statute allows for a victim to bring legal action against the suspected wrong-doer can vary from one jurisdiction to another and the nature of the offence. In rape cases in Nepal, as per the section 229(2) of National Penal (Code) Act, any plaintiff can file a complaint only within one year of the incident.
Ever since the survivor spoke of how she was raped, people have taken to the streets chanting “We Want Justice”, and “Hang the Rapist”. A survey of placards displayed by the protestors read: “Hold Perpetrators Accountable”, “Remove the Statute of Limitations for Rape and Sexual Violence”, “Take Action Against the Guilty”, “Provide Support to Survivors” and “Enable Fast Track Court for Rape and Sexual Violence”, among others.
The Nepal Police in the beginning was hesitant to arrest Pandey citing the statute of limitation for registering a court case.
It, however, was not immediately clear which law the police will employ to file a case against Pandey.
Senior Superintendent Sudeep Giri, chief of the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, on Friday told the Post that they were yet to establish the case, so they could not immediately tell what case would be filed.
“Only after analysing the details and collecting evidence, can we move further on which case should be filed,” Giri told the Post on Friday.
The police are in touch with the victim, according to Senior Superintendent Basanta Kunwar, chief of the Metropolitan Crime Division.
The Nepal Police Headquarters on Friday formed a committee under Kunwar to investigate the allegations against Pandey.
The committee has Superintendent Krishna Koirala, Deputy Superintendent Kopila Chudal, Deputy Superintendent Hari Basnet and Inspector Sapana Khadka as members.
“Our team visited the survivor’s home on Friday with a psychologist but since she was still disturbed, we couldn’t record her statement,” said Kunwar, who is also the head of a committee formed by Nepal Police to look into the matter.
On Saturday, the Home Ministry issued a statement that police were investigating the case and action would be taken accordingly.
“A probe committee has been formed and the government is committed to investigating and taking action against those involved in the matter,” read the statement.
The ministry had also urged all to help in the investigation.
On Friday, lawmakers had brought the girl’s charges that she was raped to the notice of the House. Lawmakers demanded immediate action against the perpetrators.
Speaker Agni Sapkota then directed the government to bring the culprits to book.
Questions, however, arise over the lawmakers also as they are the ones who make and amend laws, and whether they are going to act to amend the one-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual violence cases.
The statute of limitations on rape and sexual abused cases is the shortest in Nepal compared to five other South Asian countries—India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Every year thousands of cases related to violence against women and children are registered across the country. According to data provided by Nepal Police, from July 2021 to March 2022, a total of 15,459 cases of violence against women and children were reported across the country. This averages out at 64 cases daily.
The data include cases related to rape, attempted rape, allegations of witchcraft, polygamy, domestic violence, rape and murder, and kidnapping.
Police officials say they have taken cognizance of the rape charges against Pandey and that the arrest of the accused is the first step towards ensuring justice to the survivor.
“It’s too early to say how the case will move forward but we are investigating this matter very seriously,” said Senior Superintendent Giri.