The High Court yesterday ordered the government to immediately arrest the three Rab officials who were forced to retire for their alleged involvement in the abduction and killing of seven people in Narayanganj.
The court asked the inspector general of police to take steps to arrest the trio and hand them over to the detectives investigating the sensational case.
The order was faxed to the IGP's office around 9:30pm, Supreme Court Registrar AKM Shamsul Islam told The Daily Star.
Later, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal discussed the HC directive, reports UNB.
“The prime minister has instructed me to do everything as per the High Court order as well as the law of the land,” Kamal told the news agency after the meeting at the Gono Bhaban.
Earlier in the day, the state minister told reporters at the secretariat that they would comply with the court order. But the arrest of the three before completion of the probe would be "premature".
Contacted, he said, “Police investigation is underway. Besides, a seven-member [government] probe body formed in line with a High Court order is probing the incident.”
Investigation Officer of the case Mamunur Rashid said he did not get any instructions from the high-ups for arresting the trio.
The three -- Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander SM Masud Rana -- were withdrawn from Rab-11 on April 29, two days after seven people were abducted in Narayanganj.
Forced into retirement on May 6, they are now attached to the log area in Dhaka cantonment.
Tareque was the commanding officer of Rab-11 in Narayanganj when the abductions and killings took place.
He is the son-in-law of Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.
On April 27, Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam and his four aides and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker and his driver were kidnapped from Dhaka-Narayanganj link road around the same time in broad daylight. Six bodies, including that of Nazrul and Chandan, were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river on April 30, and another was found the following day.
The other victims are Swapan, Tajul Islam, Liton, Jahangir and Ibrahim.
Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam on Sunday alleged that Rab men killed Nazrul in exchange for Tk 6 crore from ward councillor Nur Hossain, the prime accused, and other suspects. He later said a son of an influential AL lawmaker brokered the deal between Hossain and the Rab men.
The Daily Star kept from naming the AL lawmaker and his son, as it could not verify the claim independently.
Police have so far arrested 21 people in connection with the case, but failed to nab any of the six accused in the case filed by Nazrul's widow.
On Saturday night, cops caught two people on suspicion. They are Hossain's bodyguard Mohibullah and Samrat, Mohibullah's brother-in-law.
The two were placed on a seven-day remand yesterday.
Also, six other suspects arrested earlier were remanded afresh for five days on expiry of their seven-day remand.
Talking to reporters, Narayanganj Superintendent of Police Khandaker Mahid Uddin said they still did not know the whereabouts of the six accused named in the case.
THE HC ORDER
Hearing a writ petition, the HC said the government sacking the Rab officials showed it might have had some information about their alleged complicity in the crime.
Therefore, they can be arrested on suspicion under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, if they are not already accused under the Penal Code or any other law.
The court also issued a rule upon the authorities to explain in two weeks why they should not be directed to consider amendment to the laws that regulate the professional activities of Rab, police and other law enforcement agencies.
In the rule, the HC asked the respondents to explain why they should not be directed to ensure uninfluenced and unbiased investigation into the seven-murder case.
It also asked them to explain why they should not be ordered to oversee the performance of the law enforcement agencies with matters related to human rights.
Secretaries of the ministries of home, law and public administration, chairman of the NHRC and the IGP have been made respondents to the rule.
The HC bench of Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar came up with the ruling after hearing the petition and the argument from petitioners' counsel Dr Kamal Hossain.
The petitioners are Bijoy Kumar Paul, assistant professor of Medical Education Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and son-in-law of Chandan Sarker, advocate Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, executive president of "Amra Narayanganjbashi," and advocate Sakhawat Hossain Khan, president of Narayanganj District Bar Association.
They challenged the “failure” of the respondents to discharge their statutory and constitutional duties to take prompt action in protecting the fundamental right to life of the seven people.
They also appealed that the court orders the arrest of the main accused and the three former Rab officials.
During the hearing, Kamal Hossain said law enforcers could not rightly play their roles in protecting people's fundamental rights due to weaknesses and loopholes in relevant laws.
In many cases, Rab detains people, as there is no specific provision about that, he said.
Kamal said the NHRC chairman expressed disappointment several times, saying his office did not have sufficient powers to take action against human rights violation.
Many incidents of abduction, killing and disappearance of people have taken place before the abduction and killing of the seven people in Narayanganj, he added.
Additional Attorney General MK Rahman and Deputy Attorney General Al Amin Sarkar represented the government.
'KILLERS WILL BE PUNISHED'
Hasina yesterday said her government would try and punish the culprits.
She gave the assurance when Chandan's family members met her at the Gono Bhaban in the evening.
The family members include Chandan's widow Archana Sarker, his daughters Sejunti Sarker, Sushmita Sarker, Swati Sarker and Shaptarshi Sarker and sons-in-law Bijoy Kumar Paul, Ranjit Devnath and Amit Singha.
The PM's Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil briefed reporters about the meeting.
"On hearing the news, I directed the law enforcement agencies to act quickly for identifying and arresting the culprits through proper investigation," Shakil quoted Hasina as telling them.