THE police again put forth the demand for immunity from prosecution for acts of torture by police officers by way of making flexible the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013. A field-level police official at a Police Week programme at Rajarbagh in Dhaka demanded that the act should be further relaxed by bringing about specific changes in the bail provision and negotiation issues as they find it stringent. The police demanded that the law should have its provision as ‘bailable’ which is now ‘non-bailable’ and it should be made ‘negotiable’ with the complainant or the victim which is now ‘non-negotiable.’ At a meeting behind the closed doors later, the police are reported to have sought ‘impunity’ in the law in discharging their lawful duties. A field-level police officer in a Police Week 2017, in a similar manner, also demanded immunity from prosecution for the same set of actions but by way of the repeal of the law. This was as much odious as atrocious then as it is this time too. Yet this is not for the second time that the police have sought either changes in the law or the law to be revoked. They all along have been opposed to the passage of the law.
They have been opposed to the law as it aims at checking against, ineffectively through especially in the absence of the required will of the executive, the use of torture, which is unlawfully, and pervasively, practised as a potent interrogation technique in criminal investigation. While the use of torture, causing even custodial death, has almost been pervasive as a means to extract information, circumventing the criminal justice system and undermining the rule of law, it beats logic why the police would need such impunity in discharging their ‘lawful duties’. People are still afraid, as rights campaigners say, of filing complaints against police personnel committing crimes, in the absence of an independent police complaint commission and with the law being very much in force. With the law being amended or revoked, it would arm up the law enforcement agencies with the powers to do anything they wish. A reported case in example is the incident that took place in Khulna in September 2017 where police officials are alleged to have gouged out the eyes of a man for his, or his family’s, failure to pay the money that the police are said to have demanded. The victim in the past week accused the police official of offering compensation in exchange for withdrawal of the case filed.
What of such crimes by law enforcers are reported to have so far happened show that crimes have come to be deeply ingrained in the law enforcers, not the whole of them though. In such a situation, the withdrawal of the legal safeguard, however week because of its poor enforcement, for the citizens could spell a disaster. The government must, therefore, not only reject the police proposal but also fully harmonise all laws with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It must also set up an independent police complaint commission so that cases against law enforcers could be handled by people outside the law enforcement agencies without any bias.
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