Confidence in Bangladesh justice system lost due to late action

April 22, 2022

DHAKA- They were innocent and young and had nothing to do with the events that ended their lives. The brutality of the murders calls for exemplary punishment, but their families are not demanding justice.

Samia Afran Prity, a student, was on her way to her friend’s house when assailants of an Awami League leader opened fire on a busy street in Shahjahanpur on 26 March. Prity, who was on a rickshaw, was shot and she died.

Her father Jamal Uddin, while lamenting the untimely death of his only daughter, repeatedly said he did not want justice.

“Where can I seek justice? There is no justice here,” the inconsolable father told reporters as he waited for his daughter’s body outside the mortuary of Dhaka Medical College.

“[We] we won’t get justice even if we want it. To run a business, you need money. We won’t survive if we have to handle the case…” the mother told reporters at her home in Kamrangirchar.

Exactly is the feeling of the family members of Mohammad Morsalin, another victim of the New Market clashes. The 24-year-old shop worker was hit by a piece of brick and succumbed to his injuries at DMCH yesterday.

“There is no justice in the country. Who will do us justice? Morsalin’s moaning brother, Nur Mohammad, told reporters while waiting for the body at the morgue.

Why don’t families want justice for the violent deaths of their loved ones? Do they assume that it is useless to seek justice? Or do they fear the long and costly legal process?

Whatever the reasons, such feelings should ring alarm bells. It shows a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.

And it didn’t happen overnight.

Long delays in trials, including in some sensational cases; inability to pay for legal services; harassment surrounding testimonials; and the insecurity of witnesses and complainants discourages people from seeking justice.

Let’s take the Taqi and Tonu murder cases as examples.

Narayanganj teenager Tanwir Muhammad Taqi disappeared after leaving his home for a local library on March 6, 2013. His body was found floating on the Shitalakkhya two days later.

A file was filed on March 8, 2013. Nine years have passed but the wait for justice continues. The murder investigation has stalled for reasons people cannot fathom.

Cumilla Victoria Government College student Sohagi Jahan Tonu was found murdered in the Cumilla Cantonment area on March 20, 2016. She was also raped. The incident sparked national outrage.

Six years later, the killers are still at large, as the police investigation has not yet progressed.

Another example is the double murder of Sagar and Runi.

The journalist couple was murdered on February 11, 2012. Over the past 10 years, the investigator has been changed six times. Rab and other law enforcement agencies requested 85 court extensions to complete the investigation.

But they were unable to submit an investigation report.

As of December 31, 2020, over 39 lakh cases were pending in court across the country. Between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, only 7.39 lakh cases could be treated.

At the High Court, around 4.5,000 cases are pending as of December 31, 2020.

Delays brew skepticism. Litigants face various obstacles in obtaining justice, from the investigation stage to the delivery and execution of the verdict.

Even though verdicts were carried out in some sensational cases, these apparently were not enough to restore confidence in the legal system of Jamal, Nargis, Nur and others.

They fear they will not get justice if the defendants are influential or belong to political parties. They feel helpless.

“We don’t want justice” is not just an expression. This provides insight into the public’s pent up resentment, frustration and crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system. We must not ignore the fact that when the families of these three victims say they do not want justice, it indicates something serious in the criminal justice system.

It is therefore the responsibility of the State to restore confidence. And it can only be restored through the speedy arrest of the perpetrators and their sponsors and speedy trials.