A field-level police official in an annual gathering of police in Dhaka on Monday demanded revocation of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013.
In their first ever ‘welfare parade’ chaired by prime minister Sheikh Hasina at Rajarbagh Police Lines, the police official said the law should be revoked to ‘protect peace, stability and security of the country’ and to inspire the police.
The gathering of several hundred cops ranking from constable to inspector general of police clapped supporting the demands raised by Comilla additional superintendent of police Tanvir Salehin Emon.
Tanvir also said that recent a Supreme Court order allowing judicial magistrates to receive cases against law enforcers on charge of custodial torture was curbing the rights of the police under other existing laws.
He said that a number of cases had already been filed against police officers, including officers-in-charge.
Tanvir argued that the 2013 act stipulated provisions against mental torture while there was no standard for measuring mental torture and that was encouraging many people to file ‘false cases’ against police.
The scope for the filing of false cases against them would discourage police from interrogating any accused person hampering the investigation into crimes and the ‘state and public security’ may be hampered, the officer told the function organised by the police to mark the Police Week 2017.
Five other officials and rankers raised various issues concerning their accommodation, uniform, medication and other privileges.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the gathering that he assumed all the demands raised were legitimate.
In concluding remarks, the prime minister, however, said that the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act was originated from a private member’s bill.
‘It was a private member’s bill tabled by a lawmaker [ruling Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury] who was brutally tortured in custody once he was in opposition,’ she said.
She, however, argued that since police said they were facing false cases, the law would allow them to prosecute any person for filing false cases.
About the Supreme Court order, Hasina said that she was not clear why the order was passed when the police were fighting against extremism and arsons by the alliance led by BNP and Jamaat.
Inspector general of police AKM Shahidul Hoque requested the prime minister to examine whether there was any scope of a review of the apex court order.
Then prime minister did not contradict but said, ‘It’s beyond my understanding, why the High Court gave the verdict.’
The police authorities have been proposing the repeal of provisions in the law that have criminalised torture in custody in all circumstances.
In 2015, the police authorities proposed the home affairs ministry for repeal of the Section 12 of the Act, which stipulated that no circumstance such as ‘war, threat of war, internal political instability or any public emergency, or an order from a superior or a public authority’ would be acceptable as an excuse for torture.
Amnesty International on March 10, 2015 urged the government to reject the call as human rights organisations in Bangladesh frequently documented cases of police torture as examples of the pervasive nature of human rights abuses in the country.
On May 24, 2016, a four-judge Appellate Division bench chaired by chief justice SK Sinha dismissed a government appeal against a High Court judgement delivered in 2003 detailing 15-point directives regarding arrests on suspicion, interrogations and detention and asked the government to amend the relevant provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
According to the fresh Supreme Court directives, if the medical evidence reveals that the person has been tortured or died due to torture, the magistrate will take cognisance of the offence suo moto without awaiting the filing of a case under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013 and proceed in accordance with law.
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