Justice stumbles at every step
The government must pay Tk 50 lakh in compensation to a man for his wrongful conviction in a rape case 12 years ago, the High Court ruled yesterday.
Abdul Jalil of Char Fashion in Bhola was only 15 when the rape incident took place in 2001.
In the years that followed, he was tried in a wrong court and under a wrong law.
In its full verdict, the HC also scrapped the life sentence given by the trial court to Jalil, and ordered his immediate release if he is not accused in any other case.
On December 15 last year, the HC bench of Justice AFM Abdur Rahman had delivered the short verdict, following an appeal by Jalil challenging the lower court judgment that had sentenced him to life.
In its full verdict yesterday, the HC said: “This court feels that it is reasonable for the state side to give financial compensation to Abdul Jalil. Therefore, the court orders the state to pay Tk 50 lakh in compensation to accused Abdul Jalil for [taking away] 14 years from his life.”
The HC sought to know how the damage done to his life because of the wrongful conviction would be undone.
Though the District and Sessions Judge of Bhola formed the Juvenile Court for holding the trial, no rules of the Children Act 1974 were followed in the process. Later, the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal, not the Juvenile Court, tried the case and sentenced Jalil to life considering him an adult person, it said.
According to the first information report, Jalil was 16 during the occurrence of the offence. In the charge sheet, however, the investigating officer mentioned he was 15.
A person under 16 would be considered a child under section 2(g) of the Children Act 1974 at that time. And this is why Jalil was entitled to a trial under the Children Act.
But he was deprived of his rights under article 31 of the constitution as he was tried under the normal law, the HC said.
Article 31 says, “To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with the law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, whenever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.”
The HC mentioned with “sorrow” that having failed to produce witnesses, the prosecution prayed to the trial court for time again and again when Jalil, a child, was in the jail custody, and the time petitions were granted without hesitation.
On the other hand, the trial court rejected Jalil's bail petitions, it added.
The HC found 52 orders of granting time prayers of the prosecution and five orders of rejecting Jalil's bail petitions.
Both the state and the accused have the right to get equal treatment until the accused is convicted, but Jalil has been deprived of this right, the HC noted.
The case was filed in Bhola on September 24, 2001, under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000, for the rape of a five-year-old child on September 23 the same year.
The Women and Children Repression Prevention Special Tribunal on August 30, 2004, sentenced Jalil to life imprisonment and fined him Tk 10,000.
Jalil filed an appeal with the HC against the verdict.
The HC granted the appeal and sent the case back to the Bhola court for a retrial.
Back then, the HC had directed the trial court to determine whether Jalil was a child during the occurrence of the offence. It also ordered the trial court to dispose of the case in line with its observations.
On March 8, 2010, the Additional Sessions Judge of Bhola convicted Jalil and sentenced him to life and fined him Tk 20,000.
Jalil moved the HC against this verdict too.
In its judgment, the HC said it was surprising but true that the trial court judge did not consider the age of the accused mentioned in the first information report (16 years) and in the charge sheet (15 years).
Even, the District and Sessions Judge on January 21, 2002, had Jalil present before him and had become sure he was a child, and therefore, he constituted the Juvenile Court for his trial, the HC said.
“If any trial takes place outside the rule of law, it has to be considered as injustice. Though following a jail appeal convicted Abdul Jalil had earlier been considered as minor by this court [HC], in his observation the judge of Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal did not consider him a minor. Whatever the reason may be for the tribunal, it was tantamount to arbitrary injustice,” the HC declared.
“Instead of justice, he [the trial court judge] had done injustice. Therefore, the conviction order of Abdul Jalil is not satisfying. Hence to establish justice, the court [HC] has to set aside the disputed verdict and conviction.”
Contacted, Additional Registrar of the HC Sabbir Faiz said Jalil would be released after the verdict reached the jail authorities via the trial court.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters at his office that the accused was a child, but he was not treated like one. As a result, he suffered a lot.
About the compensation, he said it would be difficult for the state to pay Tk 50 lakh to a victim of injustice.
The lower court judge or the prosecution might have done the mistake, but not the state, he said, adding that an appeal should be moved against the compensation order.