SPEEDY trials by way of the Law and Order Infringing Offences (Speedy Trial) Act, or Speedy Trial Act in short, enacted in December 2002 to deal with sensational cases appear to have slowed down enough to give reasons for concern. The tribunals have failed to complete trials of sensational cases in 135 working days as mandated by the act. There are, as of June, at least 3,159 sensational cases pending with nine speedy trial tribunals — four in Dhaka and one each in Chattogram, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barishal and Sylhet. And 279 of them have been pending, as Supreme Court records show, for more than five years. Tribunal officials and public prosecutors, however, seek to say that the 135-day mandatory time frame for the disposal of sensational cases, which are listed by the home ministry and referred to the speedy trial tribunals by the law ministry, has not been followed since the High Court in a verdict in a case said that the time frame was not mandatory. The time frame not being followed mandatorily for the completion of the trial questions the raison d’etre of the law as the law was meant for an expeditious trial of sensational cases.
Whatever the case is, the law itself provisions for extension of time frame if the trials could not be completed in 135 working days and it requires judges of speedy trial tribunals to explain in writing to the High Court in 30 days after the failure to complete the trial in sensational cases to seek more time. But none of the speedy trial tribunal judges are reported to have so far explained their failure in writing to the High Court. None of the public prosecutors are also reported to have explained to the law ministry why the trials sent to speedy trial courts have not been completed within the time frame. And none of the investigation officers are reported to have explained their failure in writing to the home minister either. In the events of failure, as the law minister seeks to say, no action that has been prescribed by the law has been taken for non-compliance with mandatory time frame against anyone for not explaining to relevant authorities the failure. Cases sent to speedy trial tribunals for an expeditious disposal may not be completed by the time frame laid out in the law for various reasons, but the people concerned should have no scope for not complying with the procedure laid out in the law in the events of failure.
Justice hurried is justice buried, as the saying goes. But the legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied also holds equally true. While the tribunal judges must explain in writing their failure to complete their task by the time frame to the High Court, the public prosecutors to the law ministry and investigation officers to the home ministry, it is hoped that the High Court action would entail punitive measures, as laid out in the law, as, otherwise, there could be deliberate efforts to prolong the trial on part of any of the three parties, frustrating the purpose of the enactment of the law.
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