Home Ministry snubs independent panel report

KATHMANDU, FEB 06 -

In yet another move seemingly aimed at protecting top immigration officials involved in the November 2012 robbery of Sita Rai at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the Home Ministry has bypassed a report prepared by a high-level monitoring committee that has recommended legal action against the accused.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has ignored the report prepared by the committee led by the Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Raju Man Singh Malla, which recommends forwarding the case to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), according to sources.

The report implicates the then Director General (DG) of the Department of Immigration Suresh Adhikari and Director Lekh Raj Pokhrel. Ignoring Malla’s report, the MoHA has instead forwarded its own report to the CIAA. “The Home Ministry’s own report makes no sense. The ministry should respect the independent report and suspend the top officials, just like the two section officers whom its probe panel found guilty,” a source at the Home Ministry told the Post on Tuesday.

Malla’s committee had submitted the report to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai on January 17. According to the PMO, it sent the report to the MoHA the day it was released, asking it to

punish the two officers as per the laws. The ministry, which has the authority to suspend the officials and clear the way for further investigations, has not even stopped the accused from attending office. The MoHA report, released by its joint-secretary-led investigation panel on December 24, had shown involvement of two section officers, a senior non-gazetted officer and a police constable in the robbery, but failed to establish the DG and the director’s connection. The two section officers—Tika Pokherel and Ram Prasad Koirala—were suspended, although they too have not been arrested.PMO Secretary Malla said they forwarded the report to the CIAA themselves. “We will monitor the progress in the case. Since the legal process has to take its own course, it might have taken some time,” said Malla. Responding to questions on the line ministry’s failure to suspend the top officials, Malla said their role in the  was not as “severe” as that of their deputies.

Home Secretary Navin Ghimire also said the ministry is committed to punish the guilty in the case. The case is making headway and has been handed over to the CIAA, he said.

CIAA Spokesperson Krishna Dhungana said they are still looking into the matter and refused to comment further.

Sita Rai (name changed), 20, of Bhojpur, was robbed by immigration officials at the TIA on November 21 while she returned from Saudi Arabia. On December 16, she filed a case at the Home Ministry, stating that she was robbed of Rs 218,000 and subsequently raped by a police constable. Constable Basnet is facing trial in the Kathmandu District Court on rape charges. Officials took advantage of Rai after she was found to be travelling with a fake passport. The agent who sent Rai abroad has been arrested. Following outrage, PM Bhattarai had publicly apologised to the victim for the heinous crime and expressed commitment to punish the culprits.

 

Posted on: 2013-02-06 04:00