The Supreme Court authorities have taken special measures to ensure quick disposal of the death reference and appeals in the BDR carnage case at the High Court.
A lower court in November last year sentenced to death 150 soldiers of the then Bangladesh Rifles, now renamed Border Guard Bangladesh, in the carnage case. As many as 74 people, including 57 army officials, were killed on February 25-26, 2009, at the Pilkhana headquarters of the paramilitary force.
The proceedings at the HC will take around five years to be completed if the court hears and disposes of the death reference and the appeals filed by the convicts at its usual pace.
The authorities have moved to purchase three digital printing machines at a cost of Tk 23.82 lakh so that all the documents relating to the trial court judgment giving the death sentences could be published in a very short time.
These documents, including the evidence and statements placed before the trial court, are referred to as death reference.
The SC authorities have taken the move considering the importance of the case, said SC Registrar AKM Shamsul Islam.
A paper book containing the judgment and other documents is necessary before the HC hears and disposes of a death reference, he said. And all death references of the lower court must be disposed of by the HC before proceeding with the appeals filed by the convicts challenging the verdicts.
Paper books are normally published at Bangladesh Government Press, the registrar said, adding that printing the carnage case's paper book would take a long time if it is done at the BG press since a large number of people have been handed down death sentence in this case.
The imported printing machines will be set up at the SC within a month and the paper book will be readied within the next one or two months, Shamsul said. Then the chief justice will constitute a special High Court bench for beginning the hearing on the death reference in the BDR carnage case.
The SC registrar could not say how much time the HC bench will need to deliver a judgment in the case but mentioned that the appeals filed by the convicts might be heard and disposed of simultaneously.
The family members of the carnage victims have been demanding quick disposal of the case and execution of the death sentences.
After a lower court sentences one to death, all documents linked with the judgment are sent to the HC as a death reference within seven days for scrutinising the conviction, as per the standard practice in the country's legal system.
The HC is now hearing and disposing of death references on the verdicts delivered in 2008 and 2009, some HC officials told The Daily Star.
As many as 400 death references are now waiting to be disposed of. If it goes at the usual pace, the HC will hear the death reference in the BDR carnage case in 2017 or 2018 after disposing of all those pending cases.
Paper books are also prepared in order. So without special measures in place, the paper book in the carnage case would be prepared only after the printing of those of the pending references.
The HC would then require at least a year to dispose of the death reference in the carnage case.
At least 25 copies of a paper book have to be prepared, HC sources said. Fourteen copies are given to the SC and the rest to the HC judges and lawyers of the defence and the state.
The death reference in the carnage case may be disposed of in the next two years if the chief justice orders early hearing, the sources added.
The convicts have filed jail appeals through the jail authorities and regular appeals through lawyers with the HC, challenging their death sentences.
The appeals may be heard and disposed of along with the death reference, the sources said.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said his office would take necessary steps for quick hearing on the appeals at the HC, considering the importance of the case.
“I will request the chief justice to order the authorities concerned to prepare the paper book of the case. If the paper book is prepared, the High Court will start hearing the case."
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Third Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court in Dhaka last year awarded the death penalty to 150 soldiers and two civilians. The court sentenced 161 others to life imprisonment.
As many as 256 people, mostly BDR jawans, were handed down rigorous imprisonment, ranging between three and 10 years, and another 277 accused were acquitted.