Despite a mobile court seizing four boats from sand lifters in Bagha upazila, the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) returned those boats on Sunday (February 24), claiming that the boats had not been seized in the first place.
UNO Shahin Reza acknowledged that the steel boats, each worth over Tk 7 lakh, could not be destroyed locally. Hence those were returned on “humanitarian grounds”, he said.
“It is within the discretion of the magistrate what to do in a mobile court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Abdur Razzak Khan, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP) of Rajshahi, said the boats that were used in the crime became the property of the state since its capture, and returning those to the criminals was “unethical and illegal”. The police official, however, said the police are not going to take any legal action in this regard to avoid feud between government agencies.
On February 19, the UNO supported by a team of police from Bagha Police Station launched the mobile court drive on the river at Chalkrajapur and Laxminagar areas of the upazila, according to police and upazila administration.
They caught eight sand lifters from Daulatpur of Kustia red handed while they were illegally lifting sand by dredging the river under the upazila. The court retrieved from them a dredger and eight boats, four made of wood and four of steel.
The court fined the eight persons an aggregated amount of Tk 50,000 and sank the wooden boats after damaging those on the spot. They brought the other boats to the Padma bank.
At end of the drive, the police were told by the court that these boats would be put on auction, and the money will be deposited to the government exchequer, said Mohsin Ali, officer-in-charge (OC) of Bagha Police Station, when contacted.
“Regarding these boats as property of the government, we kept the boats at Laxminagar river ghat and arranged a local man to guard those at Tk 200 per day,” he said, adding that six days later on February 24 afternoon, the guard informed the police that the sand lifters took away the boats.
When contacted, UNO Shahin Reza said the boats were never seized. “As we could not damage these boats we kept them at river ghat. The boats were returned when they pleaded for it.”
He said the sand lifters were already punished as they'd been fined and there boats were destroyed.
Meanwhile, on January 19, illegal sand lifters assaulted Assistant Commissioner (Land) Imrul Qayes and three other government staff when they went to conduct a drive in Horirampur area of the upazila. Detective Branch is investigating the case filed in this regard and they have arrested ten alleged sand lifters.