Obstructing legal defence
ON 22 December 2005, several national dailies reported that one Advocate Abdul Halim Fakir was arrested by the Chittagong Metropolitan Police while appearing for an alleged JMB accused Bappi in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate Mr. Monouarul Islam. Bappi was earlier arrested by police from Pallobi in Dhaka.
Arrested Abdul Halim Fakir gave his identity as an advocate of the Dhaka Bar Association and also took verbal permission from the secretary of the Chittagong Bar Association before appearing for the alleged accused in the court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Chittagong. As newspaper reports say, Chittagong Metropolitan Police arrested Abdul Halim Fakir, took him to the nearest police station and after interrogation released him.
After reading the newspaper reports and talking to the people concerned we understand that there is a dangerous trend to deny the access of certain people to the judiciary and make them more vulnerable and thereby making some people more alienated from the due process of law and access to justice.
Why this trend? Because, in most cases (barring the one in question) the alleged accused are coming from the poorest segment of the society? Because the ruling elites are careless about them? Because they will never fall within the category of so-called civil society?
Article 31 of Bangladesh Constitution states, 'To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.' The above-mentioned treatment of Abdul Halim Fakir is clearly in violation of the provision of Article 31 of Bangladesh Constitution.
About 535 people have been arrested for August 17 bomb incident and another 642 person have been arrested for subsequent bomb attacks. It is a matter of concern that many of these arrests were made without specific charges. There have been allegations that many of the arrestees were innocent and some who have been implicated in such attacks were allegedly tortured in custody to give statement under Section 164 of the Evidence Act.
If a notorious criminal like Earshad Sikdar can get the legal defence by engaging top lawyers of the country, why the so-called militants will be denied of getting legal assistance? Why this contradiction? Compartmentalisation of the legal defence and selected application of justice can only cause injustice in the society.
The writer is working with Odhikar, a human rights organisation of Bangladesh.