<%-- Page Title--%> Impressions <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 136 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

January 2, 2004

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When Laws are
Used Unlawfully

Shamim Ahsan

Does anyone remember Rubel, a young meritorious student of Independent University? The youngest son of the loving parents. The youngest brother of a caring brother and sister. What about Gopal Krishna Muhori, the respected Principal of Nazirhat college in Chittagong? The loving father who had a family that depended on him. Both of them were brutally killed.

It is easy to forget these victims of senseless violence as murders have become too common for us to remember for long. But the father who lost his university-going son, mercilessly tortured to death and the son who had seen his father's blood-soaked dead body in the most ruthless fashion, haven't forgotten those deaths. They won't ever. The only thing that had given some solace was to see the killers receiving due punishment. But even that hope now seems to have been dashed.

It is not just the family members, but every conscious heart has been shocked as they saw some of the heinous murderers coming out from custody. In the last few months a number of killers including Assistant Commissioner of Police Akram accused for killing Rubel, notorious Shibir cadre and terrorist Saiful who murdered Principal Gopal Krishna Muhori, the infamous underworld don and arms dealer Khaza Habib who is also the Commissioner of Ward 57, and Kazi Mahbubudin, the cold-blooded murderer of his wife Nilufar Rashid have been released on bail by the High Court. This has created serious doubt in public minds about the fate of these murder cases, that were so close to completion.

Persons under trial are entitled to bail. But considering the kind of charges these persons are facing and considering the very fact that all of them have already been sentenced with life imprisonment by the Judge Courts, the granting of bail is both unusual and suspicious. Even the kind of promptness with which the bail were grantyed belies any justifiable causes whatsoever.

So who is responsible for such blatant manipulation of the system? In our criminal justice system three main parties are directly involved - the police, the judiciary and the government law officials. Since the police are responsible with the investigation procedure, lodging FIR and submitting the final charge sheet there is scope of intentionally refraining from issuing a chargesheet against the chief criminal. Sometimes they deliberately make the FIR and the charge sheet weak, carefully leaving out key information and/or adding fictitious information and thereby destroying a case.

The government law officials, who represent the state in the court, also have their share of misdeeds. It is their responsibility to oppose any appeal they deem unlawful or be detrimental to resolving a case. But sometimes they intentionally 'underperform'. Giving bail to Saiful Islam, the chief accused in the Muhori murder case, by the High Court is a case in point. It was revealed from the court's verdict that the concerned Assistant Attorney General Ibrahim Khalil, didn't even oppose the bail appeal.

And finally comes the role of the judges. While some judges (certainly not all of them) in the lower courts have long proved their affinity for money and power, judges (so far very few) in the High courts have recently been showing signs of dishonesty. At the moment, a High Court judge Shahidur Rahman is facing a bribe charge in the Supreme Judicial Council. It is the first time in the history of Bangladesh the Council has sat with a High Court judge in the accused's dock.

As far as the government law officials and judges are concerned, one main reason behind their poor efficiency level and poorer honesty level are certainly results of the ever spreading 'culture of politicising' everything. While recruitment of law officials on political consideration has been an established tradition, the recent incidents of the government's naked intervention in connection with the appointment and promotion of judges to the High Court and even Appellate Division have certainly exasperated the already fragile and polluted judiciary.

Letting such killers out on bail severely damages the general people's faith on the judiciary, which is already going through a serious image crisis, to say the least. The fact that all is not equal in the eyes of law never came before the public eyes so overtly. People like AC Akram and Khawja Habib appear to belong to that small but mighty group of people who are, as Orwell so wittily put it, "more equal than others". It seems these people don't have to follow rules, it is the other way round--laws abide by their wish. Our hope to see the rule of law in the society is apparently at stake.


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