Ruckus, outage in courtroom
The morning rush hour traffic, which generally seems to stretch endlessly, suddenly disappeared at Chankharpul intersection yesterday.
A few dozen policemen had put up a barricade there, and were checking everyone using the Nazim Uddin road for their commute. Beyond the barricade, only a few vehicles could be seen.
A few steps ahead, law enforcers positioned themselves before another police barricade set up just near the Old Central Jail gate in the capital.
The makeshift court, which was all set to deliver the verdict in two cases filed over the grenade attack on an Awami League rally on August 21, 2004, was set up right beside the central jail building.
Undeterred by a light drizzle which had just begun, more than a hundred journalists gathered near the court. Apart from them, the place was teeming with lawyers and law enforcers.
As the clock struck 10:00am, the lawyers entered the building. But trouble began when journalists tried to follow them in. The police did not allow them entry and soon an argument ensued, after which police allowed entry to one reporter from each media outlet as per a list they had prepared.
The problems did not stop there. The reporters who were allowed entry were then told by police that they would not be allowed inside the courtroom but could stay on the premises.
The newsmen were informed that they would have to hear the verdict through a loudspeaker set up outside the building, a decision to which they expressed opposition.
Given the circumstances, the gathered journalists decided not to cover the verdict. They then spoke to Special Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol, who said he would take care of the problem.
Around 11:20am, a microbus arrived carrying the accused. After exiting the vehicle, they were led up the stairs to confront their fates. Afterwards, the journalists were asked to go up the stairs to the first floor of the building as the court was about to take seat.
However, once upstairs, they found more policemen blocking the entrance to the courtroom. The law enforcers asked the journalists to stand in the corridor and view the proceedings through the doorway. This kicked up another round of noisy arguments.
After a while, the police relented and the journalists were finally allowed into the courtroom, which, by then, was packed with lawyers.
This was not to be the end of the hassles.
Few minutes after the court sat at 11:40am, the electricity connection in the building went out.
The proceedings were not halted though. Amid the darkness, the prosecution gave its opening argument after which the judge delivered the introductory speech.
As the judge opened the file of the verdict at 11:48am, a court staffer shone the light from a mobile phone on the file so the judge could read it.
The faint glow was not enough so a police official gave his mobile phone, which had relatively better lighting.
The judge used the light and kept reading but his voice was barely audible. Intermittent sounds of walkie-talkies and ringing mobile phones, carried by the law enforcers, made hearing him much harder.
"Is it possible to hear anything? It's full of disorder," a journalist was heard telling another.
A charger light was brought at 11:55am as the judge continued the proceeding.
Some of the policemen could be heard discussing the electricity problems over their mobile phones.
The electricity finally returned at 12:05pm, only to go off five minutes later.
A police official then brought a megaphone and placed it before the judge.
The judge continued reading the judgment with the glow from the charger light. The electricity returned again at 12:15pm.
The court completed proceedings at 12:22pm.
Asked about the problem with the electricity, Kabir Uddin, duty officer of Chawkbazar Police Station, said following the directive of a senior police official, they had inquired about the problem.
They had also questioned an official responsible for electricity in the area at their police station and the official said the power had gone out due to a technical problem amid the rain, Kabir said, adding, police would investigate the matter further.