Political withdrawal of cases
Since the Awami League-led alliance entered office in January 2009, nearly 7,000 cases filed against individuals have been withdrawn at the initiative of the government. It was originally given out that all politically motivated cases filed till December 29, 2008 would be withdrawn because the new government felt that such cases had been lodged to harass certain individuals. Now that nearly four years have gone by since this government took office, we understand so far altogether 6,786 cases have been withdrawn. In a vast majority of the cases, people directly or indirectly linked to the ruling Awami League have been involved. That being the reality, the ruling party cannot exonerate itself of the responsibility of interfering with the due process of law.
The ruling Awami League, of course, has followed in the footsteps of the BNP-led four-party alliance government between 2001 and 2006, when cases against 73,000 individuals were lifted. Under the present political dispensation, as many as 81,000 individuals have had the 'good fortune' of seeing cases lodged against them withdrawn through the intervention of the authorities. In other words, for all the talk of the rule of law being applied in the country over the years, it has been precisely the opposite that has happened with successive governments. Where the Awami League-led government is concerned, the worry is all the more pronounced considering that it came to office on the promise of change. The change has simply not happened. Besides, the manner in which cases have been lifted demonstrates a patent partisanship about the whole process since cases involving opposition politicians have remained untouched. The impression in the public mind is one of the ruling alliance out to punish its rivals through letting the fate of the latter hang in the balance.
The bigger truth is that such withdrawals of cases by administrative fiat are a clear undermining of the criminal justice system. Besides, now that the mandate of the national committee, formed in early 2009 to study politically motivated cases and recommend measures about their withdrawal, has lapsed, it makes little sense for the authorities to keep lifting cases in other areas. And those other areas mean cases of clear criminality such as murder, a gouging out of eyes, embezzlement, et cetera. To what extent criminal cases can have political undertones is something the government has not explained.
We are outraged at such transgressions of the law and morality, for we believe that they badly undermine the weak foundations of democracy we are so assiduously trying to strengthen day after day. Will the government stop to listen?