The Supreme Court has sought a written response from Minister for Education, Science and Technology Krishna Gopal Shrestha on the allegations of abetting caste-based discrimination and untouchability levelled against him.

Hearing the writ petition filed by Rupa Sunar, Supreme Court Judge Kumar Regmi on Wednesday directed Minister Shrestha to submit a written reply through the Attorney General’s Office within 15 days of the ruling.

The Supreme Court has asked Minister Shrestha to furnish a written clarification with grounds and reasons for why action shouldn’t be taken against him in response to the writ filed by Sunar.

The Supreme Court order said, “There is no dispute that the act of discriminating anyone on the basis of their caste is cruel and inhumane. Such discrimination is prohibited by the country’s constitution and the laws, and are considered a punishable offense.”

Rupa Sunar had filed a writ petition on July 4 (Sunday) at the Supreme Court demanding sacking of Minister Shrestha as well as action against him for perpetuating caste-based discrimination and untouchability.

Her writ states that Minister Shrestha misusing his ministerial position and government resources had affected the criminal investigation into serious issues such as caste-based discrimination and untouchability — deemed illegal by the constitution and law.

In the writ, Education Minister Shrestha, District Public Prosecutor’s Office Babar Mahal, Metropolitan Police Circle Singh Durbar and Saraswati Pradhan have been named as defendants.

Sunar had lodged a police complaint against Saraswati Pradhan, a house owner at Babarmahal, on June 17 alleging that Pradhan had denied to rent her house to Sunar upon learning her caste.

On June 20, Pradhan was arrested and held in judicial custody for three days for investigation into the case.

Police released Pradhan on the third day of her arrest. Minister Shrestha had reached the police station to escort Pradhan to her house.

After the incident, Sunar said that she had tried to lodge a complaint against Minister Shrestha at the Singha Durbar Police Circle, but the police refused to register it.

Sunar’s writ petition also says that the Singha Durbar Police Circle had refused to register her complaint.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday also gave 15 days to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Singha Durbar Police Circle to submit a written reply regarding the allegations through the Office of the Attorney General.

Similarly, the apex court has also directed Pradhan to submit a written reply in person or through her legal representative.

The court has also scheduled a hearing on July 13 to decide if an interim order should be issued on the writ petition, and has instructed that the defendants be informed about the same.

On June 30, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had held a discussion with Minister Shrestha with regards to the case.

Issuing a press statement after the discussion, NHRC said, “Education Minister Shrestha expressed that he should not have involved in the incident, realized that he should not have used government vehicle with the national flag to escort Shrestha and that he would be careful not to repeat such incidents in the future.”

NHRC further said, “The Commission urges the Government of Nepal to stop protecting perpetrators of caste-based discrimination and untouchability, to handle such incidents sensitively, bring the perpetrators to justice through fair and effective investigation, and to protect the right of victims to justice, dignity and equality.”

Meanwhile, house owner Pradhan reportedly lodged a complaint with NHRC on June 30 against Sunar, alleging that the latter had conspired against her with fake allegations.

Stating that she had not perpetuated caste-based discrimination, and Sunar had rather conspired to get her arrested with fake allegations, Pradhan has demanded maximum action against Sunar.

She has also demanded action against Sushma Rai and Sirjana Rai for helping Sunar find a room for rent.

Pradhan has accused Sunar of “trying to spread COVID-19 by moving around under the pretext of searching for a rental room without a PCR report, searching a room to conduct criminal activities, and recording a phone call without her consent before lodging a complaint with the police”.