Warrants fake, sufferings real
Md Saiful Islam from Kishoreganj's Katiadi upazila was arrested on October 11 by police, following a conviction warrant issued by Chattogram Chief Metropolitan Court (CMM).
He was subsequently produced before the Kishoreganj judicial magistrate court and sent to jail.
The following day, a court clerk at the metropolitan court, who was registering Saiful's files sent from Kishoreganj, discovered something odd. The warrant itself was fake. The name of the magistrate on the warrant, Rezaul Karim, was false too.
Subsequently, the court officials sent a note to the authorities concerned to free Saiful from jail, but by then, an innocent man had already spent a few days in jail.
Saiful isn't the only victim of what appears to be a syndicate at the Chattogram court. It issues fake warrants -- forging the sign and seal of the magistrates of the courts -- targeting people, and then sends them to different police stations.
So far, court officials have identified 14 other fake warrants, which were sent at different times from courts.
After the incident came to light, CMM court's Najir Abul Kalam Azad filed a case, with permission of chief metropolitan magistrate Robiul Alam, with Kotwali Police Station, accusing unknown persons on October 15.
Investigators and lawyers said a section of unscrupulous lawyers, court staff, police and advocates' clerks have formed the syndicate, which fabricates these fake warrants in exchange for huge sums of money.
Most of these warrants were sent over personal or property feud, or business rivalry, observed the investigators.
According to them, the fake warrants are almost identical to the original ones, as they are issued on official warrant forms, and impossible to detect if one does not cross-check with the relevant court for confirmation.
The Daily Star collected several fake arrest warrants, which were issued at different times from the court.
The warrants, issued over different complaint register cases (filed directly with the court), had case and memo numbers as well as full details of the victims' address.
This correspondent spoke to more than a dozen police officials who said the fake warrants were sent to different police stations through registered post. Since the controversy over the warrants, they have only been executing warrants which come to them through proper channels from the court.
"You cannot identify the fake ones, if you compare it with the original. It's very confusing, which is why we don't receive warrants through the post in my police station," said the officer-in-charge of a police station of CMP's North Zone, seeking anonymity.
"Once a warrant is issued, it goes through the desks concerned at court, then to the deputy commissioner of police. The warrant then reaches respective police stations through us," he said, explaining the proper channel.
However, OC Shahadat Hossain of Katiadi Police Station claimed that the warrant came to them through the proper channel from the court. "As such, we had no reason to be suspicious. If anything, question arises why a fake document could come from the Chattogram court maintaining proper procedures."
Earlier, on October 14 last year, the High Court issued several directives to the authorities concerned to stop fake arrest warrants. The names, designations, phones numbers and signatures of the court staff who will prepare the arrest warrant will have to be mentioned, so that the accused against whom the warrant has been issued can communicate with the court staff concerned about its authenticity, said the HC.
It also stated that the police officers responsible for executing the arrest warrants will communicate with the court staff preparing the warrants to confirm authenticity.
Court sources said the court staff and court police are following the directives, but some cases are still falling through the cracks.
Chittagong District Bar Association (CDBA) General Secretary AHM Zia Uddin said, "There are some dishonest lawyers, court staff, and police involved in the racket. Without proper investigation, it is difficult to find them."
Contacted, senior lawyer advocate Ibrahim Hossain Babul said, "It's totally unacceptable. Despite repeated incidents, criminals are getting away with sending innocent people to jail."
"A comprehensive investigation can reveal the syndicate who are responsible for the incident," said the lawyer.
However, despite several orders given by the court to identify the gang members, police and other investigating authorities have failed to find the criminals behind these incidents.
OC Md Nezam Uddin of Kotwali Police Station said, "The case filed over fake warrants was shifted to Police Bureau of Investigation last month. We are now investigating the case."