Police yesterday suggested a joint meeting between lower court judges, public prosecutors and police to identify ways to dispose of around 35 lakh cases pending trial in the lower courts.
Director General of Rab, Benazir Ahmed, suggested this course of action.
Referring to committees formed in December in all districts to review the law and order situation, prevent various disruptive activities and review cases, he was quoted to have said, “You have made the committees, you will form more such committees, but the problem will not be resolved.”
The five-member district committees are headed by a district deputy commissioner or district magistrate.
He was speaking at a closed-door meeting of senior police officers with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on the third day of the ongoing Police Week at Rajarbagh Police Lines. Senior Secretary to the home ministry’s public security division, Mostafa Kamal Uddin, also attended the meeting chaired by IGP Mohammad Javed Patwary.
“At lower courts, 35 lakh cases have been pending. We have to find out why such a huge number of cases are pending trial for a long time? Who or which system is responsible? Why have the trials of those cases not been completed,” queried Benazir, according to sources at the meeting.
The Rab chief requested the home boss and the senior secretary to call up all public prosecutors, judges and police to find ways to solve the problem.
“Forming committees will not resolve the problem,” Benazir was quoted as saying.
He said that each judicial magistrate deals with 300 cases every day, which is not humanly possible.
Benazir also said that while the police bring the witnesses to court, there is then no one to take over the duties towards those witnesses, such as taking their statements, etc. He requested the home minister to take steps so that the police can hand over responsibilities of witnesses in a lawful manner.
He also said that public prosecutors are legally empowered to preserve all important documents relating to cases like case diaries and seizure lists. “They do not even have offices. Then where do they preserve such important documents?” he was said to have questioned.
The Rab DG added that as there are no storage facilities in courts, the evidence files of such a huge number of pending cases are exposed to damage.
The home secretary was also critical of public prosecutors being authorized to keep case diaries, said a number of officials who attended the meeting.
“How are something so important like case documents kept by a private person? As a result of this an accused is going free by inserting an innocent’s name in the case documents,” Benazir was quoted as saying.
Discussion on review committees came up after Sylhet SP Md Fariduddin demanded the scrapping of the “District Law and Order Review Committee” during the meeting, saying the committee was unduly influencing and intervening in the investigation of criminal cases.
Shah Alam, deputy inspector general of Criminal Investigation Department, demanded that the prosecution department be put under the purview of the police to ensure better coordination in criminal cases.
He further urged that higher-ranked officers be appointed officers-in-charge in metropolitan police stations.
Another DIG said that while police submit charge sheets in all cases, the results are not satisfactory as witnesses do not turn up.
“It happens because witnesses do not get the money they are supposed to receive [for expenses incurred to appear in court],” said the DIG.
Referring to a new customs law about to be enacted, the senior home secretary said if the law is enacted, the customs officials will be empowered to shoot a suspect during chase even at the risk of the suspect being killed.
He said he opposed the provision but his observation did not sustain.
Mostafa Kamal Uddin also said that a large number of people have been suffering, subjected to social humiliation and financial strife as they have to appear before courts for years in pending cases.
He said that currently only 82,000 people are in prison -- a number that is meagre in comparison to the number of pending cases, half of which are criminal cases. “Where have the rest of the accused in the cases gone. Are they on the run or have they been released on bail?” he asked.
A superintendent of police demanded that the SPs should be given the authority to chair the district law and order committee in absence of the deputy commissioner.
“Although the SP is the vice-president of the committee, an officer of the district administration who is often found to be junior to the SP, chairs the meeting in the absence of the DC, who is the president of the committee,” said the SP.
On the subject of drug abuse, Cox’s Bazar SP ABM Masud Hossain demanded special treatment facilities for drug addicts at all government hospitals in districts to curb the problem.
Chowdhury Abdullah-Al Mamun, additional inspector general of CID, demanded lockup facilities inside CID compounds to improve interrogation and investigation of cases.
He also demanded the immediate approval of a special force with a manpower of 200 to ensure security at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s mausoleum in Tungipara, where a large number of visitors gather every day. The proposal is pending at the home ministry.
Mamun further demanded that additional [Addl] SPs working in districts and different units should be given sports utility vehicles (SUVs) as other officers of different government department at this level are given the vehicles.
An SP now posted at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) demanded appointment of police officers to the posts of ACC commissioner and director in order to utilise the investigation expertise of police.
Addl DIG of the Police Headquarters, Akhteruzzaman, urged for an increase in upper level posts, saying, “If the number of posts is not increased, 33 percent of the total officers will not be promoted to DIG.”
The home minister gave assurances that the terms of reference of the recently formed review committee would be made more consistent and steps taken to provide operational vehicles.