is an ever-evolving mechanism. New situations merit
enactment of new laws. But a legal system, which is
overburdened with stalled cases, is surely in need
of revamping. In absence of a total makeover the speedy
trial tribunal act has been proposed as a solution.
It is introduced as an appendage--a separate cell
or a special arrangement--that would facilitate a
quick penal procedure.
When the majority of the cases are left in the loft
of the regular courts, and a handful ones are to be
considered under the speedy trial act, the question
remains, whether this new law is just a face-saver
for the government.
In the context of the sinking law and order situation,
the efficacy of this new trial procedure seems a tenable
cause to stand for it. After several cases being resolved
with an unprecedented quick pace, it has whetted the
enthusiasm of the public. People, with expectations
have rallied in support of this new tribunal. The
act works in accruing quick verdicts. But the question
remains, will it be effective, as well as accurate,
in meting out justice? Will the verdicts remain the
same after being heard in the High Court? These are
the questions that are being raised by experts. SWM
examines the nature and the ramifications of the Speedy
Speedy Trial Act was enacted on October 24 of 2002.
The new law was put to effect the day the president
ratified it. It will remain effective for two years
starting from the date of its implementation.
of Rebel and Jewel who were killed in Mohammadpur
by Kamal Pasha.
was introduced to expedite the process of justice.
Though the cases that were to be tried under the new
law had certain indicators. In the clause six of the
act, it is clearly stated that cases involving murder,
rape, possession and accretion of firearms, explosives
and drugs are fit to be tried in this tribunal.
As the law and order situation has sunk to an unprecedented
low, the government has enacted this new law that
would speed up the trials of certain cases. The law
is hinged upon two things, one is the establishment
of the special tribunal and the other is transferring
of the cases to this tribunal.
tribunal can sit at any place according to government
directive. Not all cases will be investigated under
this system. One of the essential features of speedy
tribunal is that it is the government's prerogative
to decide which cases merit quick justice. Any case
that would be considered to be tried under the new
act is transferable from the Magistrate court, the
sessions court, or any special court to the newly
set up tribunal. Even if the trial procedure had progressed
to a certain stage, the case would be transferred
to the Speedy Trial Tribunal, which would be considered
a sessions court. On trial cases can also be transferred
to the special tribunal. If this occurs, the special
tribunal will pick up where the regular court has
left off. Meaning the evidence gathered during the
regular trial would be considered good.
can be lodged directly with the speedy trial tribunals.
Cases that are currently being dealt under the normal
legal system can also be transferred to the speedy
trial tribunal. The punishments meted out to the accused
if they are found guilty are the same as that of in
the ordinary court system.
a speedy tribunal, the 'punishments' do not change.
Criminals are tried under the country's existing penal
judges in the special tribunals are district judges
belonging to the sessions courts. Even retired judges
would be appointed to preside on cases under the speedy
trial tribunal. Selected by the president, the judge
of each tribunal will follow the laws furnished in
the speedy trial act. It is the government who will
decide where and when a case will be transferred to
the special tribunal. And this would be done through
pronouncement of a gazette on the part of the government.
highest punishment meted out to a person tried under
this act would be the death penalty or life long imprisonment.
If the verdict is either death sentence or serving
of a life term or even more than seven years imprisonment,
then the trial procedure must be completed within
If a case is not determined within this time span,
then it would be extended for another 30 days. If
this extension seems inadequate, another 15 working
days would be set to complete the trial to reach a
categories of crime that will fall under the speedy
trial act are as follows: extortion, or forcing something
out of someone by intimidation or force to wilfully
change the direction or to intentionally damage any
vehicle to destroy the property of the Government
or any other person mugging, terrorism; obstruction
of buying or selling of documents of any organisation;
to prevent an organisation or a person from doing
his or her work through means of threat or force.
Those who are found guilty of these charges will be
facing two to five years of imprisonment. Law-breakers
may also have to pay fines. And those who abet in
such crimes will face the same punishment. If anyone
is found to be harassing someone or presses false
charges against anyone he or she will be liable to
the same punishment as well.
speedy trial tribunal handed down Tonai Mollah life
imprisonment in the Advocate Habibur Rahman Mondal
for the procedure of the trial, the criminal act laws
would be followed as far as possible. In this regard
the law that has created much hype-n-hoopla in the
public consciousness and whipped up a frenzied reporting
spree in the media, has more to do with speeding up
of a process that is caught in procedural jam. The
cases, even the hyped up ones, used to take a long
time to wrap up. As the journey through the loops
of filing of a case, compilation and filing of the
evidence by the police, hearing and deliberation is
never as smooth as it should be. The Speedy Trial
Act is conceived as a solution. This act cuts the
long and sinewy journey short. It also alleviates
the system that has almost become crippled with more
than ten lakhs cases standing in queue.
does the speedy trial system work? The investigating
police officer working on a particular case has to
hand over the accused to the court within 24 hours
along with the FIR (First Information Report). Then
the police officer has to submit the detailed report
explaining the alleged involvement of the accused
to the court in the next seven days. The accused is
then given 30 days to deny the charge against him
and plea his innocence.
the instance in which the main accused cannot be captured
by the police, the FIR has to be produced to the court
in seven days. If the court feels that there is not
much chance of apprehending the accused, it can order
him to surrender in seven days through a public notice
in a Bangla daily. In this kind of situation the court
has to continue with the legal procedure without the
accused and complete the case in 60 days time. Once
the investigation is complete, the court has the right
to issue bail to the criminal if it feels so.
the public has welcomed the introduction of speedy
trial tribunal, some have expressed their doubts about
the efficacy of the system too.
Speedy Trial Tribunal Act 2002' was implemented from
last October. And within eight months of its implementation,
verdicts were given to more than 100 cases of murder
and rape. According to an Ittefaq report published
on June 30, 27 persons have been punished with death
sentence, and 52 convicts were awarded with life imprisonment.
of the most talked about cases that have been resolved
include ---Principal Gopal Krishna Mohuri murder (4
received death penalty, 4 life imprisonment), Farida
Begum murder in Dhaka ( 2 life imprisonment), Housewife
Halima rape case (4 get life imprisonment), Sutrapur
double murder (16 death sentence and 3 life imprisonment),
Narsigndi Awami League leader Rabiul Awal Khan Kiran
murder (1 death, 7 life), Advocate Habib Mondol murder
(2 death, 13 life), Jhenidah Selim murder ( 3 death
sentence), Bagerhat former UP member murder (16 life
imprisonment), Fahima suicide case ( 1 death, 2 life
imprisonment), Rushdania Islam Bushra rape and murder
case (3 death, 1 life), Don, Ribel and Jewel and Ratna.
a child victim of dowry violence.
Government has the prerogative to transfer any case
to the speedy trial tribunal that it feels need to
be resolved quickly. But the speedy trial act gives
any citizen the right to file a case of harassment
or mugging in the police station.
July 17, 2002, nine year old Trisha of Gaibandha drowned
while running away from a group of mastaans on her
trail. The rowdy young men who used to tease and torment
her regularly on her way home from school, pursued
Trisha relentlessly that day and when she reached
a point where there was nowhere to escape, the frightened
child jumped into the pond. She didn't know how to
swim but instead of rescuing her, the men just stood
there and watched her drown. Following Trisha's tragic
death, a massive public outrage in Gaibandha as well
as all over Bangladesh took place. The protest movements
helped to speed up the legal process and verdict in
Trisha's case was delivered in only 73 days by the
District and Sessions court on September 30,2002.
The charge of murder was pressed directly against
three of the accused Mehedi Hasan Modern, Md. Shahin,
and Ariful Islam Asha and they were given death sentence.
verdict delivered Trisha's case restored the ordinary
citizen's faith in the legal system and paved way
for a new process known as the Speedy Trial Tribunal
Fahima was forcefully grabbed by three neighbourhood
mastaans Shumon, Nasir and Halim near her house in
the Tolarbagh area of Mirpur at around 9:30 pm on
March 3, 2002. She was raped by Shumon. Deeply traumatised
by the experience, Fahima committed suicide the same
night at her house. Fahima's father Abdul Jabbar had
filed a case in Mirpur thana under the “Prevention
of the Repression of Women and Children Act 2000”.
The hearing of the case was pending for almost ten
months due to the absence of any eyewitness. The case
was transferred to the speedy tribunal on May 18.
And verdict was given in only 41 days. The court found
Shumon guilty of violating teenaged Fahima with the
help of Nasir and Halim. Shumon was awarded with a
death sentence, according to section 9(2) dealing
with rape, under the “Prevention of Repression of
Women and Children Act 2000”. The other two accomplices
were given life imprisonment as stated in section
9(2)/30 (abetting in rape). Moreover, Nasir and Halim
have to give the victim's family Tk 1 lakh each as
compensation. The failure to produce the fine will
extend their sentence to another two years.
Sony, a student of Chemical Engineering department
of BUET was killed on campus in broad daylight in
crossfire between two rival student factions of BNP
on June 8, 2002. The case was handled by CID and after
six months of investigation, the charge sheet was
produced to the court on January 1, 2003 in which,
15 people were named as being involved the killing
that lead to Sony's death. On January 19, the case
was transferred to the Speedy Trial Tribunal. The
verdict of Sony's case was declared on June 29 this
year. The court awarded death sentence to Mokammel
Hayat Muki, Mushfiquddin Tagar, Nurul Islam Sagor
alia Shooter Nuru. The criminals also have to pay
a fine of TK 10,000 each. The others who were involved
in the crossfire namely, Mukul, Dulal, Earu, Masum
Billah and Masum have been given life imprisonment
and have been ordered to pay TK 5,000 each as compensation.
Failure to pay the fine would extend their jail sentence
to another year. Among the 15 names of the accused
stated in the charge sheet, seven of them were acquitted
due to lack of evidence. Eventhough Mushfiquddin Tagar
has been arrested, Muki and Shooter Nuru are still
absconding. Muki and Tagor's gangs were engaged in
an armed battle to win 'control' of the BUET campus
and its surrounding areas. The court found the culprits
guilty under the Penal Code's 300 (4) and section
301 relating to murder. They were punished under Section
302 and Section 34 for murder.
taking Mohammad Ripon to the Dhaka Central Jail after
a tribunal sentenced him to death for killing a five-year-old
Islam Bushra (Phool) was raped and then killed in
her own home by her own relatives on July1, 2000 in
Dhaka. She was an Honours student of Marketing at
City College. The case dragged on for three years
and finally the case was shifted to the speedy tribunal.
On June 30, the vedict was declared. Three of the
accused in the Bushra murder case were given death
sentence. They are former Awami League leader of Dhaka
city unit M.A.Quader and his two brothers-in-law Sheikh
Showkat Ahmed Ruhuland Sheikh Kabir Ahmed. Kabir has
disappeared since the day Bushra was killed. The court
also ordered the convicts to pay TK 1 lakh each as
compensation to the victim's family. Runu, M.A. Quader's
wife was awarded with life imprisonment and a fine
of Tk. 1 lakh. She would have to serve an extra two
more years for failing to pay the fine.
accused, Kaniz Fatema Hena, sister-in-law of Quader
and Sufia Begum, the domestic help were cleared of
charges against them in connection with the rape and
murder. Bushra was the only child of her parents.
Her father Serajul Islam was a retired Assistant Police
Commissioner of police. He was undergoing treatment
in the US, at the time of the incident. He passed
away last year. The motive behind killing Bushra was
to take hold of the house which belonged to Bushra's
maternal uncle. Bushra would have been the likely
person to inherit it.
accused in the Don murder case Ripon, was sentenced
to death in the Speedy Tribunal-1 on July 2, 2003.
On August 19, 2002, Ripon killed his brother-in-law
Rubel Ahmed Don for dowry and property, pushing him
into a drain where the 5-year-old met his death.
July 5, 2003 two of the four accused in the Ratna
murder case were given death penalty while the other
two were given life imprisonment. On August 9, 2003,
little Ratna was slaughtered by her neighbour Rubel,
assisted by Yunus, Ibrahim and Zakir, following a
trivial scuffle between Ratna and Rubel's younger
brother Imon the previous day. After the case was
sent to speedy trial tribunal on March 3, 2003 it
was disposed in forty one working days.
another sensational cases, one of Dhaka's 23 top terrorists
Kamal Pasha was sentenced to death for murdering two
brothers Jewel and Rebel in Mohammadpur on July 3,
2003. The special tribunal found him guilty under
Section 302 (murder) of the Penal Code. The principal
witness of the case was the victims' mother Hanufa
Begum. Kamal Pasha called the two brothers in half
an hour's difference from their house and shot them
dead in two different places in Mohammadpur.
Kamruzzaman Faruq, after another tribunal handed down
death penalty to him for killing his wife.
Salma Ali, Executive Director of Bangladesh National
Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) in an interview
with daily Prothom Alo, said that the trials were
conducted efficiently under the Speedy Tribunal, conforming
to the existing laws. She also believes that the families
of victims finally got justice. “ If culprits are
captured and if exemplary punishment is meted out
to them as quickly as possible, not only can victims
of abuse, murder hope to get justice, but the number
of such crimes would also come down.”
though the Speedy Tribunals have delivered the verdicts,
the families of the victims are still not completely
satisfied. Unfortunately, the cases will now go to
the High Court which does not have any mechanism to
deliver justice as quickly as the speedy tribunals.
Salma Ali feels that the High Court needs to consider
changing the system as well as increase the number
of judges to ensure that serious cases don't get stuck
for an indefinite period. She also expressed her hope
that the time factor does not cause the speedy tribunals
to lose objectivity so that no innocent person gets
setting up of speedy trial tribunals has been met
with mixed reactions. While the public has greatly
appreciated it, some scepticism nevertheless exists.
Eminent lawyer Dr. Shahdeen Malik explains why he
doesn't agree with the general notion that this speedy
tribunal law is a good one.
reflected on what the relatives of the victims expressed
after the courts gave their verdictsall of them wanted
to see the immediate execution of the convicted criminals.
But chances are that many of those verdicts may be
altered on appeal. Many death sentences may not be
confirmed or some punishments may be reduced by the
High Court Division. At this point, near and dear
ones of the victim may feel betrayed by the changed
decision of the High Court, particularly in view of
the hyped up expectations generated by the media and
to some extent, by the government. The ordinary people
are not aware of the strict scrutiny which law mandates,
before a person's life is taken away by carrying out
the death sentence. If verdicts in these much-publicised
cases are over-turned by the High Court, most people
may not understand the legal process involved and
may have doubts about the functioning of the higher
courts of appeal. This certainly will not augur well
for our judicial system, apprehends Malik.
all types of cases are considered worthy for speedy
trials. In fact the main reason behind forming such
special tribunals seems that these would deal only
with the 'sensational' or 'much-publicised' cases.
Malik finds the perception of 'choosing on the basis
of media-coverage' itself questionable. "I find
it unjustifiable that one particular murder case is
being resolved early simply because it made newspaper
headlines and/or was shown on television news leaving
hundreds other similar cases to be dealt with by the
same old sluggish system", Malik argues.
family members, offering prayers at Sony's memorial
on the BUET campus after announcement of the judgement.
doubt the bereaved family members or close relatives
of the victims will greatly appreciate this special
arrangement. But they are and will be very small in
number in comparison with those who won't be entitled
to such privilege of seeing their cases of murder
of their loved ones come to quick conclusion. Consequently,
a large section of people whose cases don't or won't
qualify to be taken up by the speedy trial tribunals
might feel ignored and frustrated, Malik observes.
since these speedy tribunals will hear the sensational
cases, it is not absolutely impossible that judges
will be influenced by strong public pressure, Malik
points out. He recalls the highly publicised Rima
murder case where the trial court handed down death
penalty to Khuku (girl-friend of Rima's husband Munir)
along with Munir. It was presumed that the immense
public following fanned by vigorous media coverage
may have led to the outrageous decision of giving
Khuku death penalty. Khuku was, of course, acquitted
later on by the High Court.
to death, Yunus, left, and Rubel, middle, and imprisoned
to life, Ibrahim, right, being taken out of court
after the verdict in the baby Ratna murder case; Police
take death-penalty convicts M Abdul Kader, left, and
Sheikh Shawkat Ahmed Ruhul, right, to the Dhaka Central
Jail after a tribunal announced its verdict on the
killing of Rushdania Islam Bushra, a college student;
Police take five convicts to Dhaka Central Jail after
a speedy trial tribunal sentenced them to death for
killing Jubo Dal leader Mizanur Rahman; Kamal Pasha,
at the court.
League, the main opposition in the Parliament, has
opposed to the law. According to them, since it is
the government's prerogative to decide which case
will go to the speedy trial and which not, the government
can use it to harass their political opponents. They
termed it a publicity stunt, a calculated ploy of
the government for gaining popularity.
believes that such 'quick fixes' like speedy trial
or special tribunal might look very effective in the
beginning but they never bring about any qualitative
change in the long run. Moreover, we haven't had a
government which did not try to fix a time limit for
completion of trials and initially some cases were
concluded speedily. But, it was back to square one,
after a few months. Because, an effective judicial
system is not confined to only court-room activities,
it depends on a lot of support services in order to
function smoothly and quickly.
into criminal cases too is the most vital component
of the entire criminal justice process. Unfortunately,
the police department neither has sufficiently trained
officials for conducting investigations, nor has the
essential equipment and resources for this purpose.
criminals often manage to get away by taking advantage
of the loosely conducted investigations by the police
and the resultant inadequate evidence. Besides, Malik
points out, one main reason why cases drag on for
months is inadequate manpower of the police. The lawmaker
finishes his or her job only by making laws, it is
the field level police officials who have to translate
those laws into action. Instead of enacting new laws
the government should address the problems that ail
our police department. A competent police force with
enough skill, expertise and resources will certainly
contribute to the proper implementation of the already
report, for example, is another thing that keeps cases
stuck for months. There is only one such lab in the
country with a very limited personnel and outdated
equipment and testing facilities. This lab has to
handle hundreds of cases referred to it from all over
the country. Moreover, often the testing officer has
to testify in person before the courts and verify
that the court has received his report, not from someone
Hasan Sumon and Sajid Hasan Sujon, the two brothers
convicted in the Sutrapur double murder case, being
taken to jail after their death sentence
Malik says, such quick fixes won't bring about any
qualitative changes. "Look at history, every
nation has tried such quick fixes, but they never
worked. Neither will such rigorous punishment given
in these speedy tribunals deter others, on which the
government seems to be giving so importance. If the
death sentence had deterred others hangings would
have been in vogue in every country. But the death
sentence is being abolished by an increasing number
of countries and the number of countries without death
sentence is close to 70 now," he pointed out.
“These matters of crime and punishment are not just
legal matters but social and political as well”.
live in a society where people have hardly much faith
in the criminal justice system. General people here
have a belief and to a great extent justifiably so,
that some people are above law and they can get away
no matter what crimes they commit. As long as 'certain
people' or 'a certain class" continues to enjoy
such 'impunity' from law, people will never have their
faith on the judicial system. The situation is such
that is always a chance that you can get away with
your crime provided you have political backing or
enjoy the blessing of someone high and mighty,"
is this culture of impunity, of being above law, which
has to be addressed and not the speed with which a
few 'selected' cases are concluded. These sensational
cases in the speedy tribunals are making news, but
do we know the number of accused who are routinely
being absolved of any wrong doing by having their
cases withdrawn or allegation against them dropped
by the government. "The bottom line", Malik
concluded, "is that there is no quick fix to
the problem of crime and anyone who thinks otherwise
probably has not had sufficient time to look into
the issues dispassionately, nor is aware of the vast
literature or the experience of other countries which
had embarked on such a path with, ultimately, more