Abul Khair Chowdhury, the complainant in the two cases filed over the deaths of 76 children from consumption of adulterated paracetamol syrup two decades back, landed in jail yesterday for defying 18 consecutive court orders to give testimony.
“You will stay in jail until you finish giving testimony in both the cases,” said Dhaka Drug Court Judge Abdur Rashid, pointing at Khair, who is also assistant director of the Directorate General of Drug Administration.
The Drug Court couldn't begin trials in the cases owing to Khair's not testifying, though the High Court in February 2011 withdrew its order that stayed the case proceedings for about 19 years since 1994.
Khair finally appeared before the court yesterday and gave testimony.
The court order came after Khair completed his hour-long deposition from 11:15am in one of the two cases filed over the deaths of 76 children. The kids died of renal failure after consuming adulterated paracetamol syrup in early 1990s.
“Did you receive those summonses? The court asked you 18 times to come here to give testimony. Why didn't you come?” the judge asked Khair.
The complainant then gave excuses that ranged from work load to his travels abroad.
“Were you staying abroad the whole period in which those 18 orders were passed?” asked the judge.
Before falling silent, Khair begged the court to spare him this time. “Sir, I have committed a mistake. Sir, I beg your pardon.”
“The order is passed,” said the judge, who allowed Public Prosecutor Shaheen Ahmed Khan to proceed with taking Khair's deposition in the second case.
At one point, the judge drew Khair's attention to the only accused present in the courtroom -- 60-year-old Shahjahan Sarkar, production manager of BCI Bangladesh Ltd.
“Don't you think this old man should see justice? … He had to appear in court over the 26 months you were away,” said the judge.
Khair, who was a drug superintendent during the filing of the cases in 1992, then spent another hour giving testimony in the second case.
Two cases were filed against six employees of BCI Bangladesh Ltd after two batches of the company's paracetamol syrup “Paracem” was found containing more than 25 percent diethylene glycol.
The public prosecutor pointed out to the court that Khair had not brought the lab test results of syrup samples.
Shaheen told The Daily Star that it might be necessary to let Khair go out on parole on Sunday, the next date of hearing, for bringing documents in support of his deposition.
Khair's request to the public prosecutor to help him secure release on grounds of his wife's illness went in vain.
Adjourning the hearing until Sunday, the judge ordered the police, “Take him to jail and bring him back on Sunday morning.”
Khair was taken away by police around 3:30pm.