No interim, final HC orders on extrajudicial killing cases

David Bergman

The High Court did not pass ‘interim’ or ‘final’ orders following two public interest writs, one filed in 2006 and the other in 2009, which had sought to end extrajudicial killings alleged to have been committed by the Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcement agencies.
In both these cases, after the judges had issued initial ‘rule nisis’ asking the battalion, the home ministry and the inspector general of police to explain the role of the elite force in extrajudicial killings, the state bodies failed to respond to the order and no further directions were passed by the court.
In another case in 2009, six weeks after a court had issued an order suo moto on two RAB killings, the bench was reconstituted and the case has not come up before another court. According to the chief justice’s office, the file involving this case is now ‘untraceable.’
The lack of progress in these three cases through the courts contrasts with the response to the seven killings in Narayanganj two months ago.
Within a few days of the discovery of the bodies, the High Court bench passed an order requiring the government to establish a seven-member inquiry team and another court ordered the immediate arrest of ‘three RAB officers’ and the government immediately complied with the directions of the courts.
At the end of the BNP government in August 2006, the organisation Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh filed the first public interest writ about RAB’s responsibility for killing about 500 people.
Justices Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Mamnoon Rahman issued a rule ordering RAB and other state bodies why they ‘should not be directed to take necessary steps to ensure the safety and proper security’ of people that they detain.
No further hearing on this matter took place during the state of emergency imposed during 2007 and 2008 which suspended fundamental rights but in July 2009, the lawyer Manzil Murshid got the case ‘listed’ in the court of Justice Md Ashraful Islam and Justice Moinul Chowdhury. In order for a case to be heard in a particular court, it must first be listed.
Murshid said that there was no further hearing and High Court case records confirm this.
In the second case in June 2009, Ain o Salish Kendra, the Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust, and Karmijibi Nari filed a writ petition which sought ‘to prohibit activities of the law enforcement agencies leading to extrajudicial killing in the name of crossfire/encounter.’
The petition was heard on 29 June before Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqui, who passed an order asking state bodies why ‘extrajudicial killing in the name of crossfire/encounter by the law enforcing agencies should not be declared to be illegal’ and why those responsible should not be prosecuted.
In its written order, the court stated that it would not pass an interim order requiring the government to appoint a committee of experts to investigate the deaths as requested by the commissioners since  ‘Mr MK Rahman learned Additional Attorney General submits that in principle this government does not believe extra judicial killing and that steps have already been taken to stop such killing.’
In October 2009, the petitioner organisations sought to file a further ‘application’ which again sought from the court an interim order requiring the establishment of an investigation committee. The application contained information on 50 further alleged incidents of extrajudicial killing that had occurred since June.
The court, however, according to the petitioners’ lawyer Saifur Rahman, suggested that the filing of the application could wait until the final hearing.
The lawyer told New Age that he subsequently tried to get the case mentioned for final hearing but the court indicated that it was very busy.
In July 2010, after the bench had been reconstituted, the court of Justice Mamnum Rahman and Justice Sayeda Afsar Jahan agreed to hear the case but on the date set, 13 July, the attorney general’s office sought more time and, according to the lawyer, did so a few more times until the case did not come up again on the court’s list.
In the third case on November 17, 2009, a High Court bench passed an order suo moto following the publication of two articles involving the detention and subsequent death of the Lutfor Khaleshi and Khairul Khalashi.
The order required the director general of RAB and the home affairs ministry to ‘show cause’ within 48 hours ‘as to why appropriate action shall not be taken against [two RAB officers].’ It also sought an explanation from RAB  about why this ‘heinous activity’ was ‘continuing in his battalion.’
RAB responded and stated in its affidavit that the newspaper reports were ‘baseless, false and motivated’ and that no ‘operation whatsoever was conducted by the RAB 3 and RAB 8 at the alleged place of occurrence.’
Six days later, the court considered the affidavit and gave an order asking that RAB provide details of its officers involved in the detention of the two men.
At the next hearing on December 14, the government sought an adjournment. The judges agreed but told the attorney general  to inform the authorities not to kill any more people in the name of ‘crossfire,’ ‘encounter,’ or ‘gunfight’ until the final hearing.
The case was adjourned till January 11, 2010 just after the court holidays. However, after the holidays, the court was amongst those which were reconstituted.
According to Supreme Court officers, it is the responsibility of the office of the chief justice to assign suo moto cases from reconstituted courts to another court bench.
The secretary to the chief justice told New Age in the past week that ‘the case file is untraceable.’
The Criminal Miscellaneous Section of the Supreme Court, where files are kept, confirmed that they could not find the file. ‘We have 3 lakh cases lying haphazardly,’ a section officer said. ‘We are trying out best to find it.’



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