TO what an abominable low a section of our public servants has stooped is unfortunately depicted by the following lead news report: “Child War heroes rule govt. jobs! Government revokes certificates of 35; 300 others are under scanner.” The matter relates to the government's recent revoking of freedom fighters certificates of 35 public servants who had obtained them through forgery over the past few years. The compounding shame is that the Liberation War Affairs Ministry is investigating 300 government employees and about 5,000 people from different professions who allegedly managed the certificates by faking documents.
The above move has come amid widespread allegations that a large number of government officials fraudulently obtained freedom fighter certificates over the past few years to extend their service period by one year. Quite clearly, the government has been defrauded with an intent to derive pecuniary benefits and other perks and privileges by means of cheating through forgery. A former cabinet secretary has opined that providing false documents is a criminal offense. He could not be more forthright.
Legally speaking, the above malfeasance of public servants explicitly attracts the penal provision of Section 468 of the Bangladesh penal code that says: “Whoever commits forgery, intending that the document forged shall be used for the purpose of cheating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.” The offense is both non-bailable and non-compoundable.
To illustrate, the points requiring proof of the above offense are: (I) that the document in question is a forgery (II) that the accused forged it, and (III) that in forging it he intended that it shall be used for the purpose of cheating
From the reports of the media it would appear that a large number public officials stand accused of committing a criminal offense and the revoking of 35 freedom fighters certificates bears testimony to that. It remains to be seen if regular criminal proceedings will follow. However, the disturbingly worrisome facet of the shady transaction is that Anti-Corruption Commission is reportedly investigating the allegation that some other top government officials had obtained fake freedom fighters certificates at the fag end of their service life.
The point to note is that the said freedom fighters certificates which entitle the holder to certain benefits and privileges are, in most cases, supposed to be produced at the point of entry into public service. Therefore, in the instant cases the abnormally belated submission of such certificates smacks of criminal intent. The damaging scenario is that five secretaries and a joint secretary to the government, at least, are under the scanner of the Anti-Corruption Commission for allegedly obtaining fake freedom fighters certificates at the fag end of their service career.
How fast the delinquent officials in question will be taken to task by the establishment, both departmentally and legally, would be a test of the government's resolve to weed out the bad apples from public service. It is indeed sad to note that sworn officials of the republic in whom the nation reposes its confidence and trust have let the public down very badly. What is more frustrating is that some of the suspects of the forgery have acted in judicial capacity in their service stint.
On a broader canvas, are some of our public servants in a state of moral decay? Shall the immediate future belong to the doomsayers? Our public servants surely cannot suffer from a degeneration of conscience. Sadly, some black sheep in public service have proved that single-minded pursuit of money has impoverished the mind, shriveled the imagination and desiccated the heart.
Finally, we may have to admit that the freedom fighters certificate, a solemn and historic document, has been abused and misused. The forgery of such record trivialises a noble course of history and runs the risk of exposing the moral vacuity of a resilient nation whose brave sons displayed supreme courage and sacrifice in times of great adversity. The sooner we punish the forgers and their accomplices the better we stand in everybody's estimation.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.