Court sends Manoj Pandey, who has been accused of rape, to police custody for investigationPolice to investigate the charges by an aspiring model against Pandey under human trafficking law.
The Kathmandu District Court on Monday allowed police to keep Manoj Pandey, who has been accused of rape by a former beauty pageant participant, in custody for five days for investigation.
According to Superintendent of Police Dinesh Raj Mainali, police will now investigate the case under Human Trafficking and Transporation (Control) Act, 2007.
Police had arrested Pandey, the owner of Model Global Visas Consultancy, on Saturday from the Capital’s Swayambhu area, four days after the woman shared harrowing experiences of being raped at the hands of Pandey some eight years ago. She was 16 then.
“The district court has allowed police to keep Pandey in custody for five days starting from the date of his arrest,” said Gyanendra Iteni, an officer at the Kathmandu District Court. “With this decision the court has given the police two more days to investigate as he was arrested on Saturday.”
According to Mainali, the survivor was also taken to the court on Monday to record her statement.
“In human trafficking-related cases, a victim is taken to the court where their statement is recorded so that if they cannot attend the court in future, the accused must continue to stand trial until proven innocent,” said Mainali, also the spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range.
While in other criminal cases, police have to produce enough evidence against the accused, in human trafficking-related cases, the burden of proof lies with the accused.
“Police will now investigate this case and try to collect as much evidence as possible to support the survivor’s statement,” Mainali told the Post.
The survivor’s video clips that surfaced on Wednesday have taken the country by storm, with people spontaneously taking to the streets to demand justice for her. Protesters have also been demanding setting up fast-track courts and scrapping the statute of limitations on rape cases.
In the videos, she has shared how Pandey, who was the organiser of a pageant called Miss Global International 2014, had drugged and raped her in a hotel room.
In the clips, the victim has also shared that she was abused by Pandey for six months during which he invited one of his friends as well where they abused her sexually.
The statute of limitations, which is one year for rape and sexual violence cases, has for long stood as a barrier to justice for survivors.
Now that the accused has been charged under Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2007, the statute of limitations barrier won’t apply.
In Nepal, the statute of limitations is not applicable in human trafficking-related cases.
Section 4 (2b) of the Act defines trafficking as “taking anyone from his/her home, place of residence or from a person by any means such as enticement, inducement, misinformation, forgery, tricks, coercion, abduction, hostage, allurement, influence, threat, abuse of power and by means of inducement, fear, threat or coercion to the guardian or custodian and keeping him/her in one’s custody or taking to any place within Nepal or abroad or handing him/her over to somebody else for the purpose of prostitution and exploitation.”
Earlier on Monday, the police produced Pandey before the court demanding that they be allowed to keep him in custody for investigation as the survivor had filed a complaint.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police Basanta Kunwar, chief of Metropolitan Crime Division, the registering of the case by the survivor paved the way for police to produce the accused before the court to seek his judicial custody for investigation.
“We are going to investigate this matter as a human trafficking case since it does not have statute of limitations,” Kunwar told the Post. “After recording her statement, we found that this case falls under human trafficking as well.”
Ever since the aspiring model has come forward with her experience of sexual violence, it has renewed the debate on the statute of limitations in Nepal.
The statute of limitations requires a plaintiff to file a complaint within a year of the rape incident.
In July 2008, the Supreme Court had issued a directive order in the name of the government to ensure legal provisions to increase the statute of limitations period for sexual violence cases stating that the existing period was short and it affected in delivering justice to the victims.
Petitioner Sapana Pradhan Malla, who is currently a justice of the Supreme Court, had filed the petition claiming that the statute of limitations on the cases related to sexual violence led to increased impunity.
But successive governments did not heed the apex court’s ruling. It was only in 2015, the year when the new constitution was promulgated, a Gender Equality Act 2006 was amended repealing discriminating provisions and the 35 days of statute of limitations on rape cases was increased to six months.
It was only in 2017 that the government drafted the new penal code amending the existing Muluki Ain, which further increased the six months of statute of limitation on rape cases.
In the Muluki Criminal Code 2017 which came into effect in August 2018, the statute of limitations was increased to one year.
But still there are many rape cases which are not entertained despite the severity of the crime which experts say is a crime against humanity and it has severe consequences in the country like Nepal.
“A victim of rape in Nepal loses everything including her social status and recognition given the conservative society we live in today,” said Balaram KC, former justice of the Supreme Court, who along with another justice Kalyan Shrestha had issued the directive order in 2008. “There should not be any limitations for rape victims to file complaints and for the police to begin investigations since it is a crime against humanity.”
On Sunday, women lawmakers from various parties called for scrapping the statute of limitations in rape cases and amendments to existing laws.
Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Govinda Bandi said he has directed the Law Commission to study and make recommendations.
“I have asked the law commission to study the issue [statute of limitations on rape cases],” Bandi told the Post. “The ministry will begin the process of amending the law concerned based on their recommendations.”
(Tika R Pradhan contributed reporting.)