Hours after Ataul Islam was crushed under the wheels of a bus on October 12 last year, his family filed a murder case against the driver hoping to get justice.
But Sub-inspector Riazul Islam got in the way.
Soon after getting the charge of investigation, he arranged a meeting with the victim’s family and the bus owner. Riazul subsequently forced the family to strike a deal with the bus owner to withdraw the case and go home with some money instead, alleged Shamim, the victim’s brother-in-law who filed the case with Pallabi police in the capital.
The police official brokered the deal even though the case was filed under two particular sections of the penal code that do not allow such out-of-court settlements. In court language, these cases are called non-compoundable.
The case was filed under section 279, which deals with rash driving, and 304 (B) that deals with causing death by rash or negligent driving, both considered serious crimes.
Even so, after five months of “investigation,” the IO submitted the final report along with a letter of set-tlement from the victim’s family in March this year. He also appealed to the court for the driver’s acquit-tal, showing him absconding.
But the court quickly spotted the violation of the law and rejected his report. It also instructed the Police Bureau of Investigation to take over the probe.
In its observation, the court rebuked the IO for submitting the final report. “Investigation officers should demonstrate professional skills and act only in line with the law.”
The PBI has since reopened the investigation and arrested Md Jashim, the driver of the Achim Paribahan bus that killed Ataul, a garment worker, when he was crossing the road in Pallabi area.
Not all families are as lucky, however. Police and court sources said most road accident cases are set-tled outside the court, with police officers acting as middlemen.
A senior official at the Police Headquarters said only 4-5 percent road accident cases see conviction per year.
Last year, 2,609 accident cases were filed across the country, up from 2,562 the previous year.
Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu said a large number of accident cases do not even reach the court.
“They are settled outside the court, resulting in a poor conviction rate. In other cases, the accused get acquitted because of faulty investigations,” he told The Daily Star last week.
TK 70,000 FOR A LIFE?
In Ataul’s case, bus owner Shukkur Mohamamd Khokon and his associates met Shamim, the complainant, after he filed the case. They then asked him to settle the matter in presence of police, said Md Ibrahim, a neighbour who was present at the time.
Inside the police station, the IO and the bus owner threatened him with consequences if he did not reach a compromise, said Sheikh Mohammad Alam, another neighbour present during the negotiation.
Pressured, Shamim said he would settle for Tk 5 lakh. But the bus owner boasted he could secure bail for the driver for only Tk 5,000 and offered Shamim Tk 50,000, witnesses said.
The IO intervened, and offered Tk 70,000 on behalf of the bus owner and compelled him to take the deal, said Rashida Begum, Ataul’s widow.
Rights activist Nur Khan Liton said such settlements in road accident cases had become very common as police did not act properly.
“Besides, the lengthy investigation process often renders victims and their families helpless. So they reach a compromise to get some financial benefit,” he added.
Asked, Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general (media) at the PHQ, said they instructed investigating officers to attach special importance to accident cases. “They are now more careful when dealing with accident cases.”
‘DID NOTHING, KNEW NOTHING’
Bus driver Jashim is now in jail and the PBI is planning to submit the charge sheet in a month, but the police took no action against SI Riazul.
Contacted, he said he had nothing to do with the settlement.
“The complainant reached a compromise with the bus owner. Why would the police be involved in this when they have no benefit out of this?” said Riazul, still posted in Pallabi.
He kept mum when asked why he submitted a letter of compromise in a case filed under non-compoundable section.
Nazrul Islam, officer-in-charge of Pallabi Police Station, said he was yet to receive the court order, although the PBI received the same order on March 27, two days after the court issued it.
“We will definitely take necessary initiative after receiving the court order,” he added.
The Daily Star called the bus owner at least 30 times over the last one week, but he did not pick up the call. This paper also visited the Paribahan’s bus counter, but its employees declined to comment.