Kanchanpur Police made several lapses while investigating the rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Pant in Kanchanpur, according to a report submitted by a high-level probe committee formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
After intense pressure and widespread criticism that the government had not done enough to punish the culprits of the crime, the ministry published the report on Sunday.
The panel led by Joint-secretary Hari Prasad Mainali was formed on August 23 to find facts about the gruesome incident that has rocked the country. One person lost life and more than a dozen were injured when police used force to curb demonstrations in Mahendranagar in August.
Body of Nirmala was found on a sugarcane field in Bhimdutta Municipality of Kanchanpur on July 27, a day after she was reported missing. Postmortem report showed that the teenager had been raped and strangulated to death.
In its findings, the report said that Kanchanpur Police remained indifferent to her mother’s complaint that the teenager had gone missing that fateful evening, and had not searched for her even after her bicycle was spotted. It also charges police with “grave negligence and carelessness” while collecting evidence against the murderer.
Police also failed to mobilise trained dogs to trace the culprits to the site where her body was found, the report said.
It was found that then-district police chief SP Dilip Singh Bista, who has been suspended, failed to deploy security personnel in required numbers for search and security arrangements, the report added. The Mainali-led panel submitted its report to Ministry of Home Affairs on September 25. The 37-page document published on the Home Ministry’s website concluded that SP Bista and Bam sisters—Anita alias ‘Babita’ and Anchal alias ‘Roshani’ from whose house Nirmala had gone missing—should be investigated in the case.
Police also failed to arrest and investigate the siblings immediately, as demanded by the victim’s family and local residents. That created a huge uproar and anger, the report said.
The report confirmed that Nirmala’s trousers and private parts were washed on the field where her body was recovered with a motive to destroy the evidence.
Locals and members of the victim’s family were not convinced by the way police handled the case under SP Bista’s command. The report upholds locals’ claim that police pressed the victim’s family to perform the last rites of Nirmala.
One Chandra Badu told the Mainali-led team that police forced him to confess to the crime, assuring him that his jail term would be halved.
On August 25, at an all-party meeting held at the Kanchanpur District Administration Office, representatives of political parties accused SP Bista of having a lackadaisical approach to the probe.
The report was made public after discussion in the Cabinet on Sunday.
NHRC presses government for credible probe
Earlier on Sunday, the National Human Rights Commission directed the government to conduct a fair and scientific investigation into the teenager’s rape and murder and to book the culprit(s).
A joint team of the NHRC central office and the Dhangadhi-based provincial office had monitored the situation after the incident and investigated the case.