Can crossfire killing and a free judiciary co-exist?

Published: 00:05, Jun 06,2018 | Updated: 23:03, Jun 05,2018


IT LOOKS like a royal mess right now as far as the war against drugs is concerned. The idea that by eliminating street dealers a national problem worth almost TK 10,000 crore in annual transaction and involving around 10 million people could be dismantled was unrealistic. Now the government image is dented; many questions have arisen than answers showing the vulnerability of the system as a whole. None of that is good news for anyone.

The price of crossfire deaths
Meanwhile, the terrifying tape conversation of the councillor Akram being killed by law enforcers has profoundly impacted people. While a few were critical, some were indifferent and some enthusiastic when the killings began, but not any more. Crossfire killing has greatly lost its acceptance; it will certainly go on.
Many hoped that the kingpins would be caught. This in the public mind was led by Badi, but the authorities have declared his innocence and co-incidentally he left Bangladesh for umrah soon after Akram had been killed. The public perception is that the war was not meant for arresting the biggies and none have been arrested anyway. Initially, the war focus was on the drugs menace but the very high incidence of the crossfire killings has turned the issue into a whole different topic. Now, it is asking questions about the nature and ability of the state itself.

Judicial systems, extra-judicial killings
CROSSFIRE killings are indicators of the inability of the formal judicial system to deal with the problems of law and order. Law enforcement is part of it, but encounter killings mean that the official system no longer turns to the judiciary to deal with crimes and punishment. It can thus be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the judicial system.
Since the law enforcers are all part of the government executive and crimes are supposed to be tried by the judiciary, crossfire killings delete the role of the judiciary in the process. The biggest and most significant victim of the extrajudicial killing phenomenon is the judiciary. By making it redundant in the process, at least one-third of the state system is disabled, thereby reducing the essence of the state itself. The nature of the state has, therefore, undergone a major transition over time.
The judiciary faces many challenges and the crossfire killings have added one more. The incredibly time-consuming judicial process has already taken it out of ordinary people’s domain and a few by choice would go to the judiciary to seek justice. Not only is it extremely cumbersome, ruinously expensive but a few would expect justice to be delivered in their lifetime unless the authorities decide that this merits special attention. If the public has given up on the judiciary as the provider of justice, it is because the matter is not under his control. He has no option but to give up, given the reality today.
But it seems the executive has given up on the judicial process and that is a far more serious matter.

A conflict between the executive and the judiciary?
THERE are two parts of the law and order system. One is made up of the law enforcers and the other is the court system. One is under the executive and the other under the judicial machinery. They act in concert but in this case, it seems the executive which holds administrative powers is unable to develop an effective justice delivery management system. The executive also is drawn from the legislature; so, the initiative for reforms from both state organs are limited.
Meanwhile, one has any idea if the judiciary has spelt out how the system can be reformed and if so, what was the response of the administrators to such plans. So what we see is a lack of intuitive to overhaul the law and order system in general which has led to a situation where extrajudicial killings has emerged as the dominant player of law and order. Hence, it has become the one of the greatest threat to the nature of the state as envisaged in 1971.

The legalisation of illegality
ONCE such crossfire killings become established as it has now, no matter who says what, it begins to be accepted as the legalisation of illegality. It is not limited to the killing of one or a hundred or many but the emergence of a system where law and order becomes a matter of convenience and due judicial process has no place in it. Guilt even if assumed or alleged is enough to justify capital punishment as it is happening now and nobody, including the authorities, feels embarrassed.
It basically means the conventional state, if not dead, is comatose and the so-called rule of law is not in operation. The problem is that once such a methodology of state management is approved by the official world and accepted by society, law in action no longer is applicable to any sector and not just drug peddling. In such a scenario, the doors to ‘anything is possible’ situation becomes more widely open.

Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and researcher.

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