SC irked as HC directives unheeded
The Supreme Court yesterday expressed dismay at the government's unwillingness to implement the 15 directives issued by the High Court 13 years ago to stop policemen making arbitrary arrests on suspicion and torturing arrestees on remand.
"Thirteen years back, the High Court had given some specific directives on the detention of any person and subsequent dealings with the detainees on remand. But the government did not implement any of them," said the Appellate Division of the SC during the hearing on an appeal on the issue.
The HC directives came on April 7, 2003, upon a writ petition filed as the public interest litigation (PIL) by human rights groups and individuals following the tragic death in police custody of Shamim Reza Rubel, a student of Independent University, on July 23, 1998.
In the petition, they also raised allegation that police arbitrarily arrest people on suspicion and force an accused to make confession by torturing him/her on remand.
One of the directives says an accused must be interrogated by the investigation officer in a prison room, instead of a police interrogation cell, until the cell has a glass wall or a wall with grilles on one side to make the accused visible to the lawyer or relatives.
The court also ruled that sections 54 and 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) dealing with the arrest on suspicion and subsequent remand respectively were not consistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.
In another directive, the court bars police from detaining a person under the Special Powers Act after picking him/her up on suspicion.
The HC asked the government to amend the relevant sections of the CrPC within six months from the date of the ruling.
The then BNP-led government did not agree to abide by the HC directives and opted to challenge them by filing an appeal with the Appellate Division. Now, the AL-led government is pursuing that appeal.
During the hearing on the appeal, the apex court said the Code of Criminal Procedure is a colonial law. Malaysia and India have amended this law, but it has not been amended in our country.
A four-member bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha concluded the hearing and fixed May 24 for delivering a verdict on it.
The allegation that police abuse powers through arbitrary arrest on suspicion and torture on remand has always been a major concern in the country. To check it, human rights activists have long been demanding changes in the law.
Yesterday, the apex court said the incident of anybody being arrested by law enforcers without uniform was a “serious” issue.
It then cited an instance where the son of a freedom fighter, who was a bodyguard of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has allegedly been picked up by some people claiming to be law enforcers. But he has yet to be traced, it noted.
Defending the appeal, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, however, told the court that the HC directives are not proper due to the socio-economic condition of the country.
Following scrutiny of the HC directives, he said, it appeared that they are in favour of the accused.
If the accused is given huge protection, law and order might deteriorate, he added.
Petitioners' lawyer M Amir-Ul Islam opposed the appeal, saying that the laws that are contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution can be scrapped.
During the hearing, the SC said the law enforcers produce any arrested person before the media now. The court asks if it is acceptable.
It said this court also has to fight for implementation of the directives in Masdar Hossain verdict for separation of the judiciary from the executive.
A major part of the directives was not implemented yet, the SC said, adding that the judiciary has been facing backlog of cases, as some laws were formulated without proper examination.
The apex court said police officials prepare first information reports and charge sheets in conventional ways; they do not properly apply their mind.
The government has formulated a law in 2008 for money laundering trials and it was amended in 2009 and 2012, it said, adding that hurriedness is seen in bringing amendment, and because of this, harmony among some laws is missing.