Court sends Manoj Pandey, who has been accused of rape, to judicial custody

The Kathmandu District Court on Monday sent Manoj Pandey, who has been accused of rape by a former beauty pageant participant, to judicial custody for five days.

According to Superintendent of Police Dinesh Raj Mainali, police will now investigate the case under Human Trafficking and Transportation (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 girl shared her harrowing experiences of being raped at the hands of Pandey some eight years ago. She was 16 then.

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 his friend 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 his judicial custody after the survivor filed a complaint.

According to Senior Superintendent of Police Basanta Kunwar, chief of Metropolitan Crime Division, the registering of the case by the survivor has 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.

On Sunday, women lawmakers from various parties called for removing the statute of limitations on rape cases.

During an informal discussion organised by the parliamentary Women and Social Committee on Sunday, CPN-UML lawmaker Binda Pande, Nepali Congress lawmaker and whip Pushpa Bhusal and CPN (Maoist Centre) lawmaker Amrita Thapa demanded that the government amend the existing laws to remove the statute of limitations on rape cases.

“We should press the government to come up with a bill to amend the existing law so as to remove the statute of limitations. If the government ignores the issue then we should create pressure even by pushing a resolution motion,” the UML lawmaker said at the meeting. 

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