IT IS tragic that a poor farmer, Abdul Kader, now 55 years old with his beard gone grey, received justice as he was acquitted of the charge by the High Court on Wednesday. After being jailed by a trial court for five years back in March 1987, then a young man, Kader from Harinchandanpur at Sharsha in Jessore, as New Age reported on Thursday, was released on bail after serving a prison term for three years. He appealed to the circuit High Court bench of Jessore against the verdict that also fined him Tk 5,000 for smuggling six cows into Bangladesh. The erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force tasked with guarding the borders of Bangladesh, lodged the case after it had caught Kader with six cows. The tragic part of the story is that it is in November, 2017 that the High Court in a notice reminded and asked him to appoint a new lawyer as his defender had died by that time. Responding to the notice, Kader, however, turned up at the High Court and sought free legal aid services from the Supreme Court legal aid office. The legal aid office appointed a lawyer to defend Kader in the High Court.
The judge’s annoyance for the unwarranted delay in the disposal of the appeal against the trial court sentence is, needless to say, justifiable. Although he is now free of the social stigma that the lower court verdict, without proper assessment of evidence, had imposed on him, a prison sentence of any term for an innocent person brings the victim excruciating pain. The harrowing experiences he was forced to undergo during the jail term may have precipitated even a psychological disorder for him who is fully aware that he is innocent. It is so damaging for his soul that he may lose his faith in all social institutions, carrying a permanent wound on his psyche. Losses inflicted by this kind of sentence on any person who is not guilty are irremediable. Taking into consideration these aspects of human mind, a judge or a magistrate should see that the charges against an accused are proven beyond any doubt before convicting him. If any doubt crops up in the procedure the judge or the magistrate must ensure that the doubt goes in favour of the accused. This should be done by a judge to see that no individual without guilt gets convicted. It should be noted that none is infallible as a human being. Judges and magistrates are also human beings. As such they are also likely to commit mistakes while handing out verdicts. In such cases, appeals by the accused should be heard as soon as possible without making any delay whatsoever.
As for Kader, his appeal was heard in the case pending for 31 years. By this time, much of his person has been damaged. Certainly the government needs to shoulder the responsibility to compensate for his losses.
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