Editorial in Kantipur, 8 August

The country is not under a state of emergency or at war. Organised criminal groups are on the run. And yet, the police carries out fake encounters to kill off suspected criminals. This week in a forest in Bhaktapur, the police displayed pictures of two corpses with pistols in their hands, killed in alleged encounters.

Eleven-year-old Nishan Khadka was abducted for ransom, killed and buried. When the police was unable to save the young boy’s life, it arrested and proceeded to abuse two alleged masterminds. They might have confessed to the crime, but there is no proof of that. The police took them to the forest in a van, and staged the encounter.

It takes two to have an encounter, and you do not just happen to run into people you have just arrested. The police can fire in self defense in certain circumstances, but there has to be a credible reason for that. The two arrested did not appear to have any criminal background.

The police is required to apprehend criminals alive, if not, by injuring them slightly, and in extreme cases, by shooting below the knees. But in this case took the law into its own hands and killed two people in a country where capital punishment is banned. It has so far not been able to provide any justification for these killings. Murder is an illegal, immoral, and unethical act. In fact, an encounter itself is a poor weapon, and if the police is unable to discourage it, citizens will feel even more unsafe.

The police should give first priority to preventing crime, and if crime does occur, then to preserving evidence. By killing the alleged perpetrators this week, it destroyed the only evidence for the kidnapping and murder of the boy. There also seems to be a lack of coordination between departments within the police. If so, it exposes a major deficiency in the force.

The police has been staging regular encounters of suspects. The lack of any investigation has emboldened thepolice to the take the law into its own hands. With the increased frequency of such encounters, Nepal is starting to resemble behavior of the Indian police.

The state’s duty is to prevent crime and to rehabilitate criminals. The police’s duty is to collect evidence and help with legal procedures after investigating a crime. But if the police is destroying evidence, then it too needs to be punished.