Sad tale of our criminal justice system
IN Bangladesh, the difference between law and practices is colossal. Law in book does not often match with law in action. Those law students, who are highly elated with the ideals of rule of law, justice, human rights, people's welfare and the like, have to wait for something different in practice. Reality in practice is bound to shock a credulous, sensitive and quixotic human mindto a greater or lesser degree.
This write-up is a sympathizer's spontaneous reflections on certain aspects of criminal proceedings based on a real case that touched this writer. Of course, this case may reasonably be counted as representing hundreds of thousands of such cases.
Abdur Rashid (a fictitious name) is an expatriate to Oman for last 30 years. Beginning from early life he spent two-third of his life there, and with all his life's savings he managed to buy a piece of land in his country and built a decent house of his own. Soon he was faced with souring responses from his neighbors who out of jealousy started to ostracize him by blockading his entrance and exit to the house and other collateral activities. Having been away from home for long three decades and devoid of any knowledge of obnoxious village politics, he made more enemies with his way-ward middle-eastern behavioural pattern and tried to base his claims merely on bare legal grounds. Perhaps he depended highly on law in book, finally getting severely shocked with the extra-legal practices prevailing in vogue, which he found unparalleled with his middle-eastern experience.
Three days before the last Eid-ul-Azha, he along with his wife and elder son was severely beaten by his conflicting neighbours, with total disfigurement of his left ear, displacement of his right shoulder joint and severe fracture on left forearm joint. At one stage, he became senseless. Opponents arranged this deadly attack having been failed in all legal battles. However, regaining the sense, Abdur Rashid with bloodstained clothing went to file an FIR to the nearest police station. But the officer-in-charge refused to record his FIR, instead suggested him to take the treatment first and then to come to the station again. Later on that day, one of his relatives went to the police station with a printed FIR, but the officer-in-charge without recording it left to be recorded for the next day. The next day, Abdur Rashid went to the police-station again to file the same FIR, now he came to learn that his attackers already filed an FIR against him with the help of a (so-called) local journalist early that day with a totally concocted story alleging him of theft and extortion. Of course later on that day, the officer-in-charge recorded Abdur Rashid's FIR mentioning ordinary sections of the Penal Code for investigation.
The question is, why didn't police take the FIR at the first instance? Why did he record Mr. Rashid's FIR next day showing a later-in-time filing after recording the opponent's totally fabricated FIR? If a journalist does not become true to his professional ethics, who will then hold up the conscience of the society? Can there be anything more pernicious than the unholy marriage between a corrupt police officer and a perverted journalist?
With my modest privilege to contact with the Chief-Reporter of the newspaper the journalist was working for, I complained such ominous activity on the part of his fellow news-representative. He assured me of an investigation, and we came out of his office satisfied and with a hope that at least somewhere there are some people who can hold up the torch beyond a total ruin. I did not know that it was just another rhetoric that was to shock me, to say the least.
After ensuring the filing of his FIR, Rashid took admission in Chittagong Medical College and had to stay next fifteen days there. Doctors suggested an operation of his left hand joint, for it was both a fracture and displacement. Whereas police should have arrested the criminals whose attack could even cause Abdur Rashid's death, it was him instead who along with his sons and brother had to rush to the court to take bail in such a moribund condition, lest he was not arrested and victimized twice. His family was bound to sacrifice the Eid-festivity. He was to think of managing the Police. Why is a police to be so scared of without committing any crime?
Another part of surprise was waiting for me in the medical. For the first time, I came to learn that you can manage any kind of medical report (MC) for money for the purpose of a case. If you want even a true report, you have to spend a big amount. Some doctors are ready to sell you a report according to your choice. The greater the degree of falsity, the higher the amount of money charged. From the practice, it is found that courts depend highly on the medical report in granting or rejecting the bail, because at this stage courts generally do not test the veracity of medical report for time constraint. Where does doctor's accountability lie while selling false medical reports so much important in case of bail, acquittal and punishment of a criminal?
Once on bail, comes the question of police report, which results in either charge sheet or final report. A corrupt police officer earns for both. However, in the case under discussion, which was in fact a cross case, police knew that one case was true, another false. Police knew because police was present at the place of occurrence just five minutes after the occurrence, as later on revealed to be pre-arranged. But police gave charge sheet in both, and I am sure, both reports were good bargains on police's part.
What remains for the victim? What fate is unfailingly attached to his lot in a criminal case? The conviction rate is so low in comparison to colossal criminal activities. Even if the criminal is finally convicted, would it benefit the victim, would it mean 'justice' to the victim? As against the amount spent for the treatment, for collecting medical report, for managing police not to victimize him twice, for hiring a legal practitioner to act for punishing the criminal; as against his physical pains and mental agonies and social and economic devastation, is it enough to punish one or two out of ten criminals. Punishing criminals can bring some mental peace for the victim, but can we not think of some other alternative remedial measures for the victim? What if we seriously think of a compensation-based criminal justice system as an alternative to existing punishment based system, to be applicable at the option of the victims concerned? Maintaining criminal justice system solely in the interest of state totally ignoring the interest of victims is no more acceptable.
Mohammad Moin Uddin
Lecturer, Department of Law,University of Chittagong.