Kajol all set to be free at last | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 18, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:06 AM, December 18, 2020

Kajol all set to be free at last

HC grants the journo, out of home for 280 days, bail in two cases

After photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol was "found" near the Indian border in the middle of the night 53 days after his disappearance, his family thought he would be coming home soon.

Kajol's son went to Jashore to bring him, while his wife and daughter waited in Dhaka.

Then as the day progressed, the photojournalist was suddenly whisked off to jail, under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The police informed the court that he was being arrested since he was facing three cases under the Digital Security Act (DSA) filed separately by a lawmaker and two activists of Jubo Mahila League.

Thus began the long legal battle for his bail which lasted more than half the year. It has been 280 days since he has not been home.

Yesterday, the High Court cleared the way of him to walk out of jail as it granted him bail in two of the three cases.

Kajol had already secured bail in the other case recently.

The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman granted the bail following two separate bail petitions filed by Kajol in the cases lodged with Hazaribagh and Kamrangirchar police stations.

Kajol's lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told The Daily Star that there was now no legal bar to his client's release following the HC verdict.

Kajol's son Monorom Polok said, "I am happy that my father will be released … but I cannot be totally happy unless he comes home from jail. That might happen sometime in the middle of next week, or maybe there will be some delay in it." 

Polok's apparent skepticism stems from the way this year has turned out to be for his family.

For a single Facebook post, Kajol was denied bail a total of 13 times, according to Article 19, a human rights organisation.

In the meantime, Polok waged a solitary war on social media, on the streets and in front of video cameras to get his father released.

As the days wore on, the protests sparkled with innovation -- in one instance he organised a street theatre performance in front of the Shaheed Minar, in another he influenced people to post photos holding placards written "Free Kajol" in them,

To the media, he distributed their childhood photos with Kajol's silhouette blurred out to show the impact of a missing father. Public submissions of cartoons depicting the family's strife, and demanding freedom of expression also poured in, flooding social media. 

International human rights organisations like Amnesty International took note of it, releasing a short-illustrated movie on Kajol's ordeal.

HOW BAIL OBTAINED

The HC bench yesterday granted the bail as the investigation officers failed to take permission from the cyber tribunal to probe the two cases within 75 days of their submission.

The court said it would direct the inspector general of police to take necessary steps for training the two officers regarding provisions of the relevant law.

Justice M Enayetur Rahim said the accused (Kajol) could question the jurisdiction of the investigation officer to continue the probe as he did not take the cyber tribunal's permission within those 75 days.

Deputy Attorney General Sarwar Hossain Bappi told the court that the investigation officer did not take the permission as he perhaps did not know the relevant provision.

Investigation officer Md Russell Mollah is a new police officer, he added.

Lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told the HC that his client, who is a renowned photographer, had been abducted and kept confined for 53 days.

Kajol has been languishing in jail for a long time, but the IO was going on with the probe in violation of the law.

The accused petitioner has right to life as per the constitution and therefore, he might be granted bail in the cases, Jyotirmoy told the court.

DAG Sarwar Hossain Bappi, who represented the state, could not be reached instantly over  phone for his comment on whether the government would move any appeal before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the HC verdict.

On November 24, the same HC bench had granted bail to Kajol in one of the three cases filed under the DSA.

The same day, the HC bench also asked the investigation officers of the other two cases to inform it whether they took permission from the cyber tribunal within the 75 days.

The investigation officer and the Cyber Tribunal were ordered to submit separate reports to the HC.

The HC bench passed the order after Jyotirmoy told the court that the investigations of the two cases were illegal as the probes had to be concluded within 75 days of filing of the cases.

The investigation officers have not completed investigations of the cases in 75 days, which is a violation of the relevant provision of the law, Jyotirmoy argued.

Ruling Awami League lawmaker from Magura-1 Saifuzzaman Shikhor filed one of the three cases with Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station on March 9 against Kajol and 31 others alleging that the accused had defamed him by publishing a report on crimes of expelled Narsingdi Juba Mahila League general secretary Shamima Nur Papiya.

The two other cases were filed against Kajol on March 10 and 11 with Hazaribagh and Kamrangirchar police stations. One was filed by Hazaribagh unit Juba Mahila League leader Yasmi Ara Belly and the other  by Sumaiya Chowdhury Banna, a member of Bangladesh Juba Mahila League's central committee.

TIMELINE

March 9: Digital Security Act case field by lawmaker from Magura

March 10: Kajol goes missing. Later CC camera footage revealed his motorbike was tampered with by two unidentified individuals

March 10-11: Two more DSA cases filed against him by two Jubo Mahila League activists

May 3: BGB "found" Kajol wandering about the Indian border in the middle of the night

May 4: Kajol charged with trespassing and illegal entry for which he gained bail, but at the last-minute police arrested him under Section 54

May 18: Bail denied by Jashore District Chief Judicial Magistrate Court

June 14: 3 separate virtual courts in Dhaka did not accept bail hearings because police had not officially arrested him in the DSA cases

June 24: Metropolitan Magistrate Dhiman Chandra Mondol of Virtual Court-4 denied him bail

June 28: Metropolitan Magistrate Debdash Chandra Adhikary denied him bail. Placed him on two-day remand instead

July 29: Metropolitan Magistrate Baki Billah of Virtual Court-6 denied him bail

August 24, Sept 9 and Sept 14: Judge KM Emrul Kayesh of Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court denied him bail thrice

October 19: High Court questioned why Kajol should not be granted bail

November 24: HC granted Kajol bail in one case and ordered investigation officer and Cyber Tribunal to submit progress reports

Yesterday: Kajol released

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