IN a time and clime wherein speedy disposal of public affairs, particularly conflict resolution, is not a virtue, the news of the disposal of twenty cases within four to ten days by a recently retiring senior judge should have been welcome news to all. Unfortunately, however, the saying “justice hurried is justice buried” appears to be uncomfortably credible according to reports emanating from authoritative sources.
Media reports have it that the chief justice has decided to take action against a recently retired Dhaka court judge for hastily acquitting dozens of accused before going into retirement. Interestingly, many of these accused were acquitted in violation of rules. The honourable law minister has reportedly said that “Faruk Ahmed acquitted all the accused of 24 cases in 18 days, which was a farce in the name of trial. Wait and see what action I take against him.” The judge in question retired as the judge of the Public Safety Disturbance Crime Prevention Trial in Dhaka on June 26.
The blatant violation of law by the ex-judge lay in the fact that he concluded the cross-examination of the accused even before recording witnesses' statements, which is quite clearly contrary to the provisions of the procedural code of criminal procedure. He reportedly granted bail to 45 accused, including drug peddlers, in June and acquitted the accused of 77 cases in six months. In addition, he granted bail to 101 accused between January and May this year.
Media reports also cite a High Court rule that said lower court judges will not, in the last 3 months before their retirement, deliver verdicts in such cases that may spark controversy. What is worrying is that the senior-most judge of the Appellate Division found some of the allegations to be true and has reportedly confiscated the files of the related cases. Reports have it that the Supreme Court registrar's office had sent a letter to the law secretary, asking him to take appropriate action against the suspect judge.
What is disturbing and unsettling to learn is that only last month the chief justice decided to send 3 lower court judges into forced retirement for misconduct and corruption while discharging duties. The scenario is further aggravated by the report that the Anti-Corruption Commission will inquire into the hasty acquittal and bail of dozens of accused by the suspect judge, who has just proceeded on retirement. This confidence shaking decision came after the law minister asked the anti-graft body to take necessary action against the alleged defaulting judge.
It is utterly disgraceful and demeaning to know that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will venture to find out if the judge in question had gained any financial benefit in the process of his hasty and doubtful actions. Already a highly placed functionary of the anti-graft body has said that the manner in which the judge acquitted the accused was unusual and the ACC feels that the judge had scope to get financial benefits and that he might have taken advantage.
Incidentally, the ACC is investigating a former Dhaka court judge who acquitted BNP senior vice-chairman in a money laundering case in November last year. That judge is now staying outside the country and has reportedly been located in Malaysia.
In view of the above, one may have to sadly admit that the image of the judiciary has been affected on account of the distortion of the process with ulterior motives by the said judge. Quite clearly, the norms of trial process had been abjured and compromised by him. The media has implored the chief justice to use the weight of his office to go deeper into the functioning of the entire judiciary, particularly the lower judiciary, that affect the life and liberty of the vast majority of common people.
In the ultimate analysis, well-meaning citizens cannot countenance a situation in which the integrity of the last resort of redressal of public complaints is doubted. Already there are mischievous elements in our midst that relish commenting that no segment of our society is on a high moral ground. Such pernicious thinking must be countered in serious earnest for public good. We believe that our judges are indeed on high pedestal with unimpeachable integrity.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.