POST TIME: 20 January, 2020 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 January, 2020 01:40:22 AM
Trial delay in rape cases frustrates victims
Five found guilty in 1,283 rape cases resolved in 7 years
Muhammad Yeasin, Dhaka

Trial delay in rape cases 
frustrates victims

While the number of rape incidents has marked a sharp rise in the country in recent months causing concern among the public, delay in rape trials is complicating the case proceedings, said legal experts. The ratio of guilty verdict against offenders in rape cases remains extremely low with only 5 offenders getting punished against 1,283 rape cases resolved from 2011 to June 2018, stealing hope from rape victims of getting justice.  According to a research of non-government organization Naripakkha, a total of 4,372 rape incidents took place in six districts of the country during the periods of 2011 to June in 2018. Out of them, a total of 1,283 cases have been disposed and only five offenders received punishment.

Experts opined that social status of the offenders, poor biological evidences, lack of witnesses, legal loophole and the delay of trial proceedings of the cases are the main reasons for not ensuring punishment for the offenders of the rape incidents.

Law Commission Chairman and former chief justice ABM Khairul Haque said that the rape incidents would reduce in the country if the punishment would be ensured for the offenders within shortest possible time through the disposal of the cases filed over the incidents.

“We are worried over the increasing number of rape incidents in the country. If the punishment can be ensured within a short time for the offenders through the disposal of the cases filed over the matter, the rape incident might be reduced,” he noted.

If the court is able to deliver verdict quickly ensuring punishment for the offenders for the offences committed, the consequence of the punishment would be reflected in the

society, he said. The former chief justice said the investigation teams and prosecution often have lacking in carrying out their duties. In many cases, the accused persons were acquitted due to the lack of witness statements and evidence. The prosecution team and investigation have to take proper training in conducting sensitive cases, he added.

 Recently, the country saw massive protest following a rape incident of a Dhaka University (DU) student in the city’s Kurmitola area on January 5.

 RAB later arrested one Majnu, a 30-year-old drug addict, over the incident and legal process is ongoing in the case.

In previous years, two rape incidents sparked massive outcry across the country. In one of the incidents, two private university students were allegedly raped and filmed on March 28, 2017, after they were invited to a birthday party at a hotel in Banani of Dhaka.

 On May 6 in 2017, one of the victims filed a case with Banani Police Station accusing five persons including Shafat Ahmed, son of Apan Jewellers owner Dildar Ahmed, in connection with the rape incident.

 The case is now pending before the Dhaka Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal for disposal, even after two and a half years.

 The other case was filed against Bogura town Sramik League convener Tufan Sarker and his associates for abducting and raping a female student and torturing her mother in July, 2017.

 Tufan on July 17, 2017 reportedly abducted a female student from her home and raped her and then asked his party cadres and the woman councillor to make sure everything was hushed up.

 They picked up the student and her mother on July 26 the same year, tortured them for four hours and then shaved their heads. This case is also pending before a Bogura court for disposal.

 After these incidents, law enforcers arrested the accused and put them on trial. But, the trial proceedings of the two cases are yet to complete despite the passing of more than two and half years. Thousands of such rape cases remain pending with court, delaying justice.

Legal experts said if the trial proceedings get delayed, the witnesses in the cases may not be found and accordingly the accused persons would get acquittal order from the courts due to the lack of evidences and witness statements.

However, they said if the authorities concerned would follow the High Court directives, which were passed recently by a HC bench for quick disposal of the rape cases, the victims would get justice within a short time.

Non-government organization Naripakkha, in a research, said a total of 4,372 rape cases were filed in six districts during the period from 2011 to 2018. Among these, a total of 1,820 rape cases were filed in Dhaka, 872 cases in Jamalpur, 925 cases in Sirajganj, 378 cases in Noakhali, 240 cases in Jhenaidah and 137 cases in Joypurhat district.

Among these cases, a total of 1,283 cases have been disposed of so far. Out of these, a total of 989 people got exempted while 289 got acquittal orders from the courts. Only five people got guilty verdict in the cases and handed punishment. The remaining 3,089 cases are now pending before the courts for disposal.

Advocate Kamrun Nahar, who is working for Naripakkha, said the plaintiff in rape cases have to prove the incident through many ways. The physical examination is very much unfortunate as the rape victim once again get harassed due to the process of examination.

In many cases, the accused persons got acquittal orders due to the lack of physical examination. The courts deliver its verdicts on the basis of evidence and documents. But, most of the evidence and documents are not produced due to the delay of examinations and trial proceedings of the cases for a long time, she added.

In an order, a High Court bench, on July 17 last year, ordered the Women and Children Repression (Prevention) Tribunals and the district courts to complete the trials in rape and murder after rape cases in 180 days as the law makes it mandatory.

In case of delays, it also asked the tribunal judges to submit written explanation to the Supreme Court registrar general why he or she had failed to complete trial in crimes against women and children case within the mandatory time frame.

The HC bench directed the government to form a district monitoring committee comprising of the additional district magistrate, additional superintendent of police for administration, the civil surgeon’s representative and the tribunal’s public prosecutor to ensure the presence and security of witnesses during trials.

As the coordinator of the monitoring committee the tribunal prosecutor would be required to submit monthly reports to the Supreme Court and the ministries of home and law about the committee’s activities.

The court said the monitoring committee will be accountable for the state’s failure to produce any witness at hearings.

The bench also directed the monitoring committees to see whether or not the witnesses were summoned on schedules.

The bench authorized tribunals to recommend departmental action including halting salary payments of official witnesses like magistrates, police, doctors and other experts if they do not appear to testify without satisfactory reasons.

At least 1,64,551 crimes against women and children  cases were pending with 58 tribunals in 22 districts and 42 district courts until March 31, 2019 according to the SC sources. At least 38,006 of these remain pending for over five years. Trial of 1,217 cases were stayed by higher courts, according to the SC.