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  <%-- Page Title--%> Issue No 97 <%-- End Page Title--%>  

June 22, 2003 

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Prisoners' plight

Conditions of the prisons and prisoners are well known to all concerned citizens of the country. Currently there are about 71000 prisoners in all the 65 jails of the country where with the capacity of nearly 25000. Keeping this figure in mind one can easily guess in what condition the inmates are living in the jails. Almost two third of the inmates are undertrial prisoners. There are many who are languishing for years without trial. To better plight of the prisoners several commissions were set up and they accordingly made their recommendations. Some of these recommendation has been implemented but the major and important recommendations are still awaits implementation. As a result sufferings of the prisoner continue.
They are denied basic human right guaranteed by the Constitution. Will it continue for years? I think to reduce sufferings and to improve living condition of the prisons, we first need a solution of the 'overcrowding problem' either by establishing new jails or reducing the number of 'jail worthy people. The court must apply its judicial mind before sending one to jail. A huge amount of money is being allocated from the state exchequer for the prison and prisoner. But what is the outcome? Is it helping to reduce criminality? Do the person benefit in any way while they are in prison. They are languishing in the jails for years without any positive and productive activity. As a result many of them after release again get involved in criminal activities. If we can train them with different income generating programme, they will find a fair way of income after their release. This may contribute to reduce criminality in the society and corruption inside the jails. We may also think alternative to the prison system such as parole, probation etc.
Motejheel, Dhaka

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Govt. should comply with the HC order

The High Court Division's judgement on section 54 and 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is one of the milestones of the country's legal history. Almost all the laws now in force in Bangladesh were enacted by the British colonial rulers. Even after the independence, we have hardly changed any provision of these laws. Of them, section 54 of the CrPC was considered as a draconian law. This law provided the police with almost unlimited power to arrest anyone without any order of a magistrate. For that reason police abused and misused this law for a long time. All section of the society including the political parties constantly demanded repeal or amendment of the law, except the party in power. Using the term 'reasonable suspicion' police arrest innocent people and extort money from them and the government used it as a tool of oppress and suppress their political opponent. In fact there are misconceived ideas among the police regarding the power given to them under this section. In this backdrop, the High Court Division in its landmark verdict, declared the two sections (54 & 167) inconsistent with the Constitution. And it recommended for amendment of the sections. It also directed the government to implement the amendments recommended by it within six months of the date of judgement. It further asked the government to adhere to the 15 point directives till the necessary amendments. All quarter of the society welcome this judgement, as it will contribute to protect the citizens from the harassment and arbitrary arrest of police. Even the Attorney General in his reaction after the judgement said that the government would not appeal against the HC verdict. But eventually we see the government has filed a petition of appeal before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the judgement. The Appellate division did not stay operation of the judgment, which means it is mandatory for the government to follow the directives. But there is no indication from the government to comply with the judgement. Instead, arrest under section 54 is going on as usual. And the magistrates are allowing remand of the arrested persons to police custody in violation of the judgement This is not expected of a government who claims to be democratic and committed to protect citizens' rights. By this conduct the government itself setting president and encouraging other to violate orders of the higher courts of the country.
A. Kabir,
Pallabi, Mirpur, Dhaka.


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