The drivers of two Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan buses involved in the killing of two college students in 2018 were well aware of the high risk of driving down the ramp of a flyover.
Yet, they were racing on the Zillur Rahman flyover in the capital’s Shewra area and did not slow down on the ramp before the accident.
Passengers and helper of one of the buses even requested the driver, Masum Billah, to drive carefully but he paid no heed to anyone. He drove on recklessly just to have more passengers to make more money.
This is how a Dhaka court described the fateful event before handing down life sentence to Masum.
Judge KM Emrul Kayesh of Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court also awarded life imprisonment to the other driver, Zobair Hossain Sumon, and his helper Kazi Asad, for instigating the crime.
The court, however, acquitted Masum’s helper Enayet Hossain and owner of the bus Jahangir Alam as it did not find their “direct involvement” in the accident, which sparked a huge student agitation in the capital for road safety.
It did not give any decision about Shahadat Hossain, owner of Zobair’s bus, as the High Court stayed the trial proceedings against him. He is currently on bail.
Of the accused, Asad is on the run while the other four are behind bars.
“The callousness of drivers and helpers in the transport sector is causing many deaths, which must be stopped,” said the court while delivering the verdict.
Two students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College -- Abdul Karim Rajib and Dia Khanam Mim -- were run over and killed while nine others were injured on July 29 last year because of the mad race between the two buses.
Thousands of students took to the street seeking justice for the killing and pressing for nine demands that included capital punishment for reckless driving that results in death.
Following their unprecedented demonstration for safer roads, different government bodies, police, and transport leaders made a series of lofty promises.
Lawmakers hastily passed the Road Transport Act-2018, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a 17-point directive, and police observed “traffic weeks” multiple times to bring discipline on roads.
But the picture on Dhaka streets remains almost unchanged.
The judge started reading out the summary of the judgment around 3:00pm in presence of the four accused.
Referring to witness testimonies and confessional statements of Masum, Zobair and Shahadat, he said three buses of Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan started for their destinations at the same time.
But Masum’s bus went a little ahead at one stage, leading to an illegal race with Zobair.
Just before the buses reached the accident spot, Zobair started to pick passengers blocking Masum’s way from right side. Failing to cross Zobair’s, Masum started driving recklessly through left side of the road to take more passengers, he said.
While Masum was driving recklessly, passengers of the bus and even his helper Enayet requested him to drive with caution. The bus hit the flyover wall twice and glasses of its windows got smashed.
“But he [Masum] did not pay heed to their request and rather drove at higher speed, causing the accident,” the judge said.
The court said the three were punished under the first part of section 304 of the Penal Code -- which deals with “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. Life term is the highest punishment under this section.
After the delivery of the verdict, Dia’s father Jahangir Alam Fakir expressed satisfaction and hoped it will help end recruitment of unskilled drivers.
DRIVERS WITH LIGHT LICENCE
Two BRTA officials, who gave testimonies as prosecution witnesses, said both Masum and Zobair were not eligible for driving heavy vehicles as they had light licence.
“Even knowing this fact, owner Jahangir Alam did not bother about it,” the court said.
“He [Jahangir] appointed Masum Billah to drive heavy vehicle with light licence although the driver was not competent.”
However, the court acquitted Jahangir saying it did not find his direct involvement in crimes.
Asked about the matter, Jahangir’s lawyer Abdus Salam Sikder said his client was not present at the spot. Besides, it was the company, not his client, responsible for appointing drivers and helpers.
“Considering these, the court acquitted him and we are happy with the verdict,” he told reporters.
CALLOUSNESS OF DRIVERS, HELPERS
In his observation about transport sector, the judge said people are getting killed under the wheels due to carelessness of drivers and helpers.
The drivers are often operating heavy vehicles without having the proper licence and killing people while driving recklessly to earn more.
Besides, the drivers get involved in unhealthy race to reach different destinations quickly because the bus owners compel them to pay a certain amount. As a result, road accidents are taking place and people getting killed frequently.
The judge also observed that the owners hire drivers having light licence to run heavy vehicles with low pay. Traffic officials should strictly monitor this, he added.