Urder has always been the most grievous and heinous of all criminal offences in any society. Every civilised society intends to inflict the maximum punishment upon the offender who commits murder. However, despite such intentions, it has not always been possible to punish murderers on account of several factors. At times, the offenders have been powerful enough to silence the victims into submission and inaction; while on other occasions, the guilty have escaped punishment by taking advantage of procedural flaws.
In Bangladesh, in recent years,there have been a number of murder cases of freethinkers, activists, young women, children and people of ordinary means, in which the investigative work has been less than satisfactory. Not surprisingly, many perpetrators of those crimes are suspected to have utilised their powerful connections in stalling the process of law. The end result has been an all-pervasive atmosphere of frustration and despondency, which surely does not bode well for a democratic society. For obvious reasons, the sliding confidence in the evenhandedness of the State institutions has to be halted in public interest.
It is in the context of the above scenario that the society would like to see even handed dispensation of justice towards the victims of all murders, irrespective of their identity. Such an aspiration brings us to the issue of the widely publicised unresolved murders of three young Bangladeshis, who in their youth were most cruelly deprived of their life.
To start with: the gruesome murder of Taqi of Narayanganj a couple of years ago. We have the tragic spectacle of an academically bright teenage boy and a progressive social activist who became a victim of criminal gang's depredations. Investigations by Rapid Action Battalion reportedly indicated the involvement of the scion of a local politically powerful family and the accusation is that powerful quarters have prevented the investigations of the case from reaching its lawful end. The wait for justice has been excruciating for Taqi's parents, while his innocent, beaming boyish face continues to haunt many mothers.
The rape and murder of Tonu, a young cultural activist of Comilla Victoria College in the Cantonment area and the delay in locating the culprits, suspected to be men in uniform, has shocked and infuriated the whole nation. The victim's parents reportedly did not get the desired assistance from the authorities and are yet to recover from the trauma. Here is a case where quite clearly the State, the complainant in a criminal prosecution, should have operated with full force to the support and solace of a grief-stricken family of modest means. In fact, the full application of State power would have soothed many bruised hearts.
The brutal murder of Mitu, a young woman, in broad daylight in front of her child in Chittagong city and the subsequent developments have shocked and frustrated citizens across the spectrum. In this case, the deceased's husband, a highly placed police official and apparently a credible suspect in the murder, has only been forced to resign from service, while criminal proceedings are yet to commence against him despite the alleged unearthing of incriminating evidence. Here is also a case where it appears that the law enforcer has been spared the rigours of law. No wonder, the evenhandedness and integrity of the State institutions has been open to question.
In the world of law enforcement and justice, the powerless multitudes look to the powerful minority for redressal of wrongs. Redressing wrongs is, in many religions, an attribute of the Divine. Let us remember that the law serves one of its greatest social purposes when it dethrones wrong.
The writer is a former IGP and a columnist of The Daily Star.