Kathmandu, Oct 6 : Police on Sunday took former House Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara into custody to investigate rape charges he is facing, in what is the first such high profile arrest in relation to sexual assault allegations.
The arrest was made on the basis of a complaint filed by the accuser, an employee at the Parliament Secretariat, at the Baneshwor police post on Friday, five days after an online portal broke the story about rape allegations against Mahara, who has since resigned from the post of the House Speaker.
Even though the complaint was filed on Friday evening, police had not been able to start the process to take Mahara into custody because the court was closed on Saturday.
Hours after the court issued an arrest warrant on Sunday, a police team, led by Durga Regmi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police at the Baneshwor police station, had reached Baluwatar where the House Speaker’s residence is situated.
Mahara, who decided to step down as the Speaker on Tuesday after reports surfaced that he had visited the woman’s apartment in Tinkune on Sunday evening and forced himself violently upon her in a drunken stupor, has not resigned as a Member of Parliament.
Last week was marked by confusion and concerns given the silence maintained by the ruling Nepal Communist Party and the government and the Nepal Police’s past failures to act in cases related to high profile officials and politicians.
The accuser had first made the allegations against Mahara on Monday night via an online media portal. She then recanted her accusations in a video interview for another media portal. Many had believed that her recantation was made under duress. Police had failed to make any progress on the case, citing the lack of a formal complaint and the woman’s disavowal of her initial allegations.
But in a sudden turn of events, the woman on Friday filed an official complaint against Mahara, paving the way for police to take the investigation forward.
Judge Brajesh Pyakuel gave the permission to the police to arrest Mahara and investigation into charges levelled against him.
Courts though are currently closed for Dashain holidays, according to a court official, bench can sit for special circumstances.
Gyan Bahadur Karki, an official at the Kathmandu District Court, told the Post on Saturday that the police first need to obtain an arrest warrant from the courts before they can take anyone into custody.
Many believe constant media scrutiny and concerns from the National Human Rights Commission, rights groups and the international community could also have prompted the Nepal Police to act, which has faced severe criticism for failing to investigate cases of gender-based violence.
Amid growing concerns over security and safety of the woman, the national human rights body on Friday took cognizance of the case and formed a three-member committee to study and monitor the police’s investigation progress.
On Friday evening, the international community also expressed concerns, even though it stopped short of referring to Mahara by name, about the high prevalence of violence against women in Nepal. .
In a statement, the United Nations and six foreign missions in Nepal reminded the government of Nepal of its obligations under international law to ensure access to justice for victims, stand for victims’ rights and send a zero-tolerance message to combat gender-based violence.