THE order of the High Court Division of Thursday for all Repression on Women and Children (Prevention) Tribunals and district and sessions judges’ courts, where such tribunals are absent, to complete the trial in cases of rape and murder after rape in 180 days is welcome in that when one rape is too many, an increased number of rape are reported to have recently taken place. The Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum in its latest report in the second week of July says that 496 children were raped in the first half of 2019 while 41 were raped in the first week of July, accounting for six rapes on an average a day. The Bangladesh Mahila Parishad about the same time came up saying that 731 women and children were raped in the first half of 2019. In such a situation, at least 164,551 cases of crimes against women and children are reported to have been pending with 58 tribunals in 22 districts and 42 district and sessions judges’ courts as of March 31 and at least 38,006 of the cases have been pending for more than five years. But what remains worrying is that the court had to ask subordinate courts to comply with the provision that has been in the law since 2000 which the court also talked about in a directive issued on December 5, 2016.
The 2016 directive requires judges dealing with the cases to explain to the Supreme Court registrar general in writing why they fail to complete the trial of the cases of crimes against women and children within the mandatory time frame of 180 days. But none of such judges, unfortunately, complied with the directive and judges are reported not to have done anything in this regard when the superior courts sought explanation for their failure to complete the trial by the time frame. This all together brings to the fore a glaring failure of the government in justice dispensation in cases of crimes against women and children, especially rape and murder after rape. The court finds, and rightly, the government inaction against such failures for rape becoming almost epidemic. In the absence of any reporting mechanism in this case under the control of the Supreme Court registrar general, it may have been difficult for the higher judiciary to get to know of the issues pending, but the higher judiciary in 2016 asked the judges to comply with the legal provision and the directive, yet nothing has happened. All it boils down to is the government’s failure to make the lower judiciary comply with the directives of the higher judiciary and to take action against people responsible for such breaches of the law and the directive.
The High Court, in what has so far followed, has now issued a six-point directive for an expeditious disposal of the cases of rape and murder after rape, the institution of district monitoring committees whereby tribunal prosecutors as coordinators would submit monthly reports to the Supreme Court and the ministries of home affairs and law and steps for the production of witnesses in court, with a suggestion for the enactment of a witness protection law. Unless the government does all this in earnest and early, justice in crimes against women and children will remain elusive, thereby leaving an atmosphere conducive to a decline in law and order that would harm the protection of women and children.
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