Firm fetters for border guards
If two or more members of border security force collectively express their angst, it would be considered mutiny, according to the proposed legislation for the force.
People involved in such activities or attempts shall be punished which could even be the death penalty.
The proposed law is likely to be placed in parliament today, the first day of this parliament's sixth session.
The government has moved to introduce the new law, repealing the existing one, to restructure the force with a new name "Border Guard Bangladesh" in the wake of the heinous killings of army officers at Bangladesh Rifles headquarters in February last year.
The unprecedented mutiny broke out when BDR jawans at their yearly Darbar (assembly) raised demands before officers who refused to give in to those.
Home Minister Sahara Khatun will place the bill titled "Border Guard Bangladesh Act, 2010" before the House, sources in the Parliament Secretariat said.
The Daily Star obtained a copy of the bill.
The government seeks to enact the new law on the formation of the border force, its control, administration and discipline with the provisions for harsh punishment including death penalty for jawans committing various offences.
The existing Bangladesh Rifles Order, 1972 empowers the paramilitary force to form special courts to award a person maximum seven years' imprisonment.
Inserting an explanation for the section of the bill dealing with mutiny, the bill says mutiny includes two or more people jointly disobeying a legal order of the authorities of the border force, armed forces and auxiliary force or challenging and resisting their authorities or expressing angst jointly to the authorities or making attempts to express it.
A senior BDR officer, however, said the new legislation would not prevent BDR jawans from expressing their problems and dissatisfaction if they have any. But they will not be allowed to do it collectively or in a group, or in procession. Even the existing law does not allow this, he said.
The official said the BDR members now could speak about their problem at the monthly Darbar held at every unit. If it is a common problem then one person can speak on behalf of all, he said.
There is a provision to sentence a member to three years' imprisonment if he intentionally hurts someone's religious sentiments. The proposed legislation also imposes strict restriction on freedom of speech and organisation.
On prior permission of the government or director general, a person can be enlisted in any professional body or organisation to improve professional efficiency.
It also proposed keeping the post of director general of the force reserved for the army and other officials will be appointed by the government from armed forces' commissioned officers on deputation or by promoting junior officers of the force.
The director general will command, administer and control the force in accordance with this law while superintendence of the force shall be vested with the government.
About the functions of the force, the bill said during wartime the border force will be placed under the control of the defence ministry and will discharge functions assigned by the ministry.
The proposed legislation has also provision for formation of a reserved force of the border guard consisted of retired junior officers and retired border guard men. They will assist the regular force if they are asked to do so.
On approval of the government, the director general may appoint reserved force members as junior officers and rank holder border members, and enlisted members for a certain period due to shortage of manpower of the force.
The proposed law also vests the director general with the power of remitting or commuting any sentences awarded by the border force's courts.
It also barred jurisdiction of the courts including the Supreme Court of Bangladesh from reviewing the proceedings of border guard's appeal tribunal. A person convicted of life imprisonment or death penalty can appeal to the president seeking mercy.
DEATH PENALTY OFFENCES
According to the provision of the bill, a member of the border force may be convicted by the border guard court to death or other lower punishments if he begins, incites, causes, or conspires with any other person to cause or join any mutiny in the force, the armed forces, auxiliary forces or any forces.
He will also be accused of committing mutiny if he is present at any such mutiny and does not use his utmost endeavours to suppress it. Knowing or having reason to believe the existence of any such mutiny and not notify the authorities or any intention to commit such mutiny will also be punishable with death.
Being involved in any conspiracy for mutiny and not informing proper authorities without reasonable delay will also be punishable with death.
Members' attempt to prevent any person in the border force or armed forces from doing his duty or influence his allegiance to the government will be punished with death.
The bill also proposed considering all types of mutineers, arms holders, rioters, pirates and any person who causes threat to the country and members of the force as enemies who can be awarded death sentences.
According to the bill, a person of the border force might be convicted by border guard court to death or award lower punishments if a person abandons or delivers any post, place or guard to enemy or induce other person to do so.
He will also be accused of committing an offence punishable with death, if he intentionally uses words or any other means to compel or induce other person of the border force and armed forces to abstain from acting against the enemy or discourage such person from acting against the enemy.
If a person directly, indirectly or treacherously holds correspondence with or passes intelligence to the enemy, that person can be punished with the death penalty. Failing to notify proper authorities about such correspondence and communication is also punishable with the death penalty.