Eminent jurists and rights activists yesterday welcomed the first ever verdict in a case filed under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013 and said it will encourage people to come forward to file cases under this act.
Giving their reaction to this newspaper following the judgement of the case filed over the custodial death of Ishtiaque Hossain Jonny, in which three policemen were sentenced to life imprisonment and two other accused to seven years in jail, they said this judgment carries a message of hope for anyone filing a case with the court under the act.
After the law was enacted, police several times demanded that it be repealed and even sought Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's intervention during a meeting with her at the police week in 2017.
In 2015, the police department sent a proposal to the home ministry to bring major changes to the law and wanted safeguards from prosecution for custodial deaths and torture.
Eminent jurist Dr Shahdeen Malik said this first conviction is a very welcome development.
In spite of numerous cases of torture and extrajudicial killings, this was the first case under this act, he said.
"Hopefully, the victims of police torture will now come forward to file cases under this act," he said.
Noted rights activist Nur Khan Liton said, "We have to express satisfaction as, though delayed, we have got a judgement in which accused are convicted under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act."
He said the government has to create an environment in which, if anyone falls victim to such torture, they can easily and fearlessly file cases against the accused. The government will also have to ensure that witnesses can give their depositions without fear.
Through this judgement the offenders will get a message that if anyone commits such crimes they will be brought to book.
But offenders will only get the message when aggrieved people are able to file cases without fear. "So far, no such environment is visible," he added.
"Whatever law we have, we will not be able to reach the expected target if we cannot create a society where people will file cases without fear. Yesterday's verdict is a progress towards the goal."
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said, "We have long been speaking in support of this law. Whatever weakness there is in the 2013 act, it contains legal provisions that has brought or may bring groundbreaking changes in the protection of people.
"Our key challenge is that the police who are torturing me and shooting me to death are given the task of investigating. Such investigation loses credibility."
But under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, judicial inquiry is kept as a provision.
"Amid such an adverse circumstance where even a person like Maj (retd) Sinha can be shot dead… such a verdict is at least one step forward.
"I don't want to say everything will change overnight due to the judgment," he added.
He however said the verdict means if anyone approaches the court with such a compliant, there is a chance of getting justice. "This verdict will send a positive message to people," he added.
Advocate Salma Ali who was in the courtroom as the verdict was being read out, said afterwards, "In a country like ours, where there is no witness protection, filing a case against law enforcers and then winning it is a momentous step. The family was under threat many times. This judgment gives the message that there is no impunity for anyone."