Are Police Defying Home Minister’s Orders?

Published On: January 25, 2023 08:24 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

There is one issue which has been consistently raised in the new House of Representatives (HoR) ever since the House convened its first meeting over two weeks ago on January 9. Actually that issue has grabbed the entire nation’s attention. The issue is the one involving Laxmi Mahato Koiri, a murder-accused member of parliament (MP) elected from Mahottari-1 on a CPN-UML ticket. Recently, Nepali Congress MP Ramhari Khatiwada objected to Koiri’s presence in parliament and drew the House’s attention to “the fact that a murder-accused is sitting among us.” Khatiwada even threw a satire at Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Rabi Lamichhane, pointing out how the state had failed to arrest “a murder-accused who walks about freely.” In response, Home Minister Lamichhane, who clearly looked agitated by the satire, said “the home ministry functions according to the process and system…I hope no one will try to pressure or influence in this process.” Earlier when the issue of murder-accused Koiri having a chit-chat with Home Minister Lamichhane in parliament was raised, accusing the home minister of doing nothing to arrest him, he had said, “The home minister doesn’t walk around with handcuffs in his pockets! It is also difficult to recognize all MPs when we meet them. When I found out [about Koiri], I immediately ordered the chief of police to arrest him [Koiri].” MP Koiri is the same person who has been accused of leading a mob that killed the Assistant Sub Inspector of Armed Police Force Thaman BK in Jaleshwar on 11 September 2015 during the second Madhesh movement. The mob, allegedly led by Koiri, had pulled out an injured BK from an ambulance and brutally killed him. The court ordered the government to arrest Koiri in connection with the same murder some three years ago. But so far the arrest hasn’t been made despite several opportunities to do so. 

One thing is clear – Home Minister Lamichhane has ordered Koiri’s arrest many times. It’s been over two weeks since the first of such ‘orders’ was issued, according to the statements made by the home minister on several occasions. But the bitter reality is murder-accused MP Koiri is still free! He has been attending the HoR meetings regularly. He took the oath of office and secrecy in parliament, along with other parliamentarians. He was also present in the House when Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal sought a vote of confidence. And he was also present in the HoR for the elections of the Speaker. On top of everything, the home ministry itself has confirmed that Home Minister Lamichhane has instructed the police time and again to arrest Koiri but he hasn’t been arrested. On July 20, a controversial home ministry statement undersigned by the ministry’s spokesperson said, “The ministry’s attention has been drawn to the fact that Laxmi Mahato Koiri hasn’t been arrested despite repeated verbal instructions to the police for the same by the honorable deputy prime minister and home minister. The ministry has written a letter to the police headquarters to arrest the accused immediately and take necessary action.”

All this has raised a very important question: have the police been defying the home minister’s orders to arrest Koiri? It may sound harsh to Home Minister Lamichhane, but it seems yes! If otherwise, Koiri would have been arrested long ago. But Koiri enjoyed a similar liberty during the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government, too. The then home minister Bal Krishna Khand, too, did nothing toward arresting Koiri. But Home Minister Lamichhane entered politics claiming that he was different from the traditional pack of politicians. Now he needs to prove that. However, Koiri seemingly enjoys the ‘cooperation’ of not only the police; even the Federal Parliament Secretariat seems to be on his side. That should be why the parliament secretariat has not suspended Koiri from the post of MP, despite being informed about the charges against him well in advance. The same parliament secretariat has, however, suspended corruption-accused Nepali Congress lawmaker Tek Bahadur Gurung who was elected to the HoR from Manang. Now, with a former UML leader elected to the all-important post of Speaker of the HoR, things could be even more favorable for Koiri in parliament as “the HoR Regulations are silent on the issue of what to do with crime-accused MPs who are on the absconding list and parliament does what the Speaker decides in such matters.” So, who is protecting Koiri? How and why do both police and parliament seem to be on the side of a murder-accused? Why are the police defying the home minister’s order to arrest a murder-accused MP? Is this the rule of law? Or is there a different set of laws for politicians? We all know how difficult questions would Home Minister Lamichhane, who was an aggressive TV journalist before eventually deciding to join politics less than a year ago, have asked the authorities if he had to report this case on TV! But today he fortunately finds himself in the position to answer those questions. He knows it best if the police are defying his orders. If they are, then it is very serious and the home minister should deal with it and the police officers involved very ruthlessly, of course, according to the law. 

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