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POST TIME: 19 July, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Dispose of rape cases within six months: HC
Staff Reporter, Dhaka

Dispose of rape cases within
six months: HC

The High Court (HC) yesterday issued seven directives to all tribunals on prevention of repression of women and children to complete the trial proceedings of rape as well as murder after rape cases within six months of their filing. A HC bench came up with the directives at a time when at least 160,751 cases filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act have remained pending with various courts across the country.

Supreme Court (SC) sources said that till January 1 this year, a total of 160,751 cases were pending before tribunals across the country for disposal. Among these cases, some are going on for 10 years.

According to Section 20 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000, the tribunals have to finish the trial proceedings of a case filed under this law in 180 days after framing of charges. But in most cases, the trial proceedings are not finished within the deadline, resulting in immense suffering for the litigants.

The HC bench said it is unfortunate that even the trial proceedings of rape cases involving children are not being completed quickly. The HC bench of Justice M Enatur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman came up with the directives during the hearing of appeals relating to three separate petitions filed by three accused seeking bail in connection with three separate rape incidents in Bogura, Dhaka and Noakhali.

After exercising the power of Article 109 of the Constitution, the HC bench issued the seven-point directives for tribunal judges to ensure justice for rape victims and quick punishment for the offenders.

Article 109 of the Constitution says: ‘The High Court Division shall have superintendence and control over all courts and tribunals subordinate to it.’

In its order, the HC bench directed judges of women and children repression prevention tribunals to take necessary legal steps to dispose of rape as well as murder after rape cases within the stipulated timeframe of 180 days from the starting of the trial proceedings of those cases.

The HC bench also directed the tribunals to hold continuous hearing on every working day after it started trial proceedings of the cases under Section 20 of Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000.

It also directed the authorities concerned to form a monitoring committee in every district to ensure the presence of witnesses and their security during the trial proceedings. The committees should be formed in every district comprising the additional district magistrate, additional superintendent of police (administration), civil surgeon and the public prosecutor of the related tribunals.

The public prosecutors of the tribunals will carry out their duties as the coordinators of the monitoring committees and send reports on its activities to the Supreme Court (SC) and home as well as law ministries every month.

If there are many tribunals in a district, all public prosecutors of that district will be included in the monitoring committees. The senior-most prosecutor among them will be the coordinator of those committees, the HC order said.

The monitoring committees will be accountable if the state fails to produce the witnesses before the court without any satisfactory reason on the scheduled days of hearing of the cases, the HC bench mentioned.

The court also said that the monitoring committees ensure that the tribunals could able to issue summon orders on the witnesses at the earliest possible time.

After the summon order, if any official witnesses, such as magistrates, police officers, doctors, and other experts, fail to appear before the court without any satisfactory reason, the tribunal would recommend for departmental action against them and could also consider freezing their salaries.

The HC bench opined that the law should be enacted immediately for the protection of the witnesses. The court expected that the government would formulate the Witness Protection Act within a very short time.

The HC bench directed the secretaries of the home as well as law ministries and the SC registrar general to take necessary steps for implementing the court order.

The HC bench rejected the bail appeals of accused Md Rahel alias Rayhan of Bogura and Sekandar Ali of Dhaka. However, it granted bail to another accused Md Sarwar Rubel of Noakhali in such a case.

Attorney General (AG) Mahbubey Alam said that the rape incident would not reduce without the rapid trial of these cases. “The rape incident will not reduce without quick trial and ensuring punishment for the offenders in this regard. A judge should be keep standby only for conducting the trials of rape related cases. Soon after getting medical report, the judge will conduct trial and ensure justice for victim in the shortest possible time,” the chief law officer of the state said.

He also said that the people should also stay vigilant to reduce the crime. All people should come forward to eradicate this problem from the society, he noted.

Every day, hundreds of women and children are denied justice due to the unusually long time it takes to dispose of rape as well as rape and murder cases. Delayed justice lends impunity to those already accused and gives encouragement to newer ones, providing no respite to violent crimes committed against women and children, according to rights groups.

Records show that 160,751 cases filed under the law were pending across the country till January 1 this year.

The trial of at least 39,396 have not been completed despite the lapse of more than five years of filing of the cases, while the trial of 811 cases have been stayed by the HC, according to the case management record book of the Supreme Court.

SC data shows that 67,857 cases were filed from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 across the country. Of them, 8,483 cases were filed in Dhaka, 12,155 in Chattogram, 6,015 in Cumilla, 3736 in Sirajganj, 2,622 in Habiganj, and 2,334 cases in Rangpur.

A total of 36,469 cases, out of a total of 67,857, have remained pending for more than five years, including 1,904 cases with nine tribunals in Dhaka, 1,130 in Gazipur, 2,594 in seven tribunals in Chattagram, 1,357 in Cox’s bazar, 1,061 in two tribunals in Noakhali, 1,533 in Nagaon, 2,146 in two tribunals in Sirajganj, 1,800 in Bagerhat, and 2,555 in three tribunals in Rangpur.