The High Court yesterday granted four-week anticipatory bail to Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman in a case filed for “negligence” over the death of Naimul Abrar Rahat, a student of Dhaka Residential Model College.
It asked Matiur Rahman to surrender before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court when the bail period is over and said the court concerned would consider if he filed a bail petition.
The HC bench of Justice Obaidul Hassan and Justice AKM Zahirul Huq passed the order after Barrister M Amir-ul Islam moved a bail petition on behalf of the Bangla daily’s editor and five others.
While granting the anticipatory bail to Matiur Rahman, the court also directed the law enforcers not to harass or arrest the five others until police report is filed or charges are framed in the case.
The order came as the five were not named in the case filed by the victim’s father and after their lawyer told the court his clients were being harassed.
The five are: Anisul Hoque, deputy editor of Prothom Alo and also the editor of Kishor Alo; Kabir Bakul, head of event and activation of Kishor Alo; Shuvashish Pramanik Shuvo and Shah Paran Tushar, assistants at event and activation of Kishor Alo; and Mahitul Alam Pavel, senior assistant editor of Kishor Alo.
Abrar, a ninth-grader, was electrocuted during the anniversary programme of Prothom Alo’s youth magazine Kishor Alo on November 1 last year.
His father, Mojibur Rahman, filed the case with the Fourth Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka on November 6.
On January 16, a Dhaka court issued arrest warrants for Prothom Alo Editor and Publisher Matiur Rahman and nine others in the case. The court fixed February 24 for the next hearing in the case.
It passed the order after Abdul Alim, an inspector of Mohammadpur Police Station and also the investigation officer of the case, submitted a probe report to it.
The charges brought against all the accused are under section 304(A) of Bangladesh Penal Code. The section deals with deaths caused by “rash or negligent act”.
According to the section, a person may face up to five years in jail if charges are proven against him or her.
On Sunday, Matiur Rahman and the five others filed bail petition with the HC, which fixed yesterday to hear the petition.
Matiur Rahman and the five others appeared before the court around 11:40am.
Barrister M Amir-ul Islam, Supreme Court Bar Association President AM Aminuddin, lawyers Sumaaiya Aziz, Miah Md Ishtiaq, and Prashanta Karmoker appeared on behalf of the six while Additional Attorney General Momtaz Uddin Fakir and Deputy Attorney General Sarwar Hossain represented the state.
During the hearing, Amir-ul Islam told the court that while receiving Abrar’s body, his father in a letter informed the officer-in-charge of the police station concerned that he had no complaints. But when he filed the complaint with the court, he said there were negligence, which is contradictory.
The lawyer said the anniversary programme of Kishore Alo was held at the field of Dhaka Residential Model College on November 1 last year and Abrar went to watch it.
In the case statements it was mentioned that Abrar became unconscious following electrocution behind the programme stage, but no one was supposed to be there, he said.
According to the complaint, the electric lines were unprotected and proper safety measures were not taken to arrange such a programme. The lawyer said those who were tasked with managing the electricians organise major state programmes, including those attended by the prime minister.
Besides, there were medical team and ambulance, he said.
The court then wanted to hear from the state.
As Additional Attorney General Momtaz Uddin Fakir said the case was filed under section 304 of the Penal Code, the HC asked whether it was bailable or not.
Momtaz replied it was bailable.
He said only Matiur Rahman was named in the case and the others are not named.
Citing the case statements, Momtaz then said Abrar was taken to Universal Hospital at Mohakhali, instead of nearby Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College.
There was negligence, he said, adding that the programme continued even after Abrar died. “This is planned negligence and murder caused by negligence.”
He also said the case statement mentioned Abrar’s father was pressurised to accept the incident as an accident.
Momtaz then opposed the bail petition and cited directives given in a verdict by the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division on anticipatory bail.
He argued that bail can be granted in a bailable case, but the HC should not grant them (those seeking bail in the case) bail since they did not ask for it from the trial court.
The HC said Matiur Rahman was named in the case and asked how the other five were linked to it. At this, M Amir-ul Islam said police went to their houses on Sunday night and they were now in fear.
When the court said there were examples of granting bail in such cases, Momtaz said if the court did not follow its own directives, he had nothing to do.
The court then referred to an Appellate Division verdict in another case and said if anyone was aggrieved by any order, they could move to the Appellate Division.
Amir-ul Islam said Abrar’s father first said it was an accident and that he had no complaints. He filed the case a few days later giving in to pressure, he claimed.
The case only mentions the name of Matiur Rahman, who was not at the spot on the day the incident occurred. He was receiving treatment that day, the lawyer said.
The senior lawyer also said the Bangla daily editor was harassed on multiple times in the past. Police even went to his home, he said.
Referring to the 1/11 period, he said court had to step in and order not to harass or arrest people in around 100 cases. Most of them were journalists. There were cases when they had to carry court copies of orders with them. Journalism is a risky profession in this country, the lawyer said.
Later during the hearing, the court passed the order.
‘NO DISPUTE BETWEEN GOVT, PROTHOM ALO’
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday said there was no dispute between the government and Prothom Alo.
“A case was filed after an incident ... court issued warrant for the editor and it granted bail. It’s totally under the court’s jurisdiction,” he said.
He made the comment while replying to reporters’ query at his office in the capital, UNB reported.