The online courts put the trial of criminal cases on hold as they were empowered only to hold hearings in bail prayers of detained accused during the ongoing restriction on movement and overall activities imposed by the government on April 5 of the current year to contain Covid-19.
Family members of victims of many sensational murder cases demanded exemplary punishment of the accused after completing their trials expeditiously while lawyers defending the accused pleaded that trial could not proceed by the online courts instead of operating regular courts.
The different courts in Dhaka put the ongoing trials of many sensational cases on hold after the closure of the regular courts since April 5.
The trial of the sensational cases put on hold includes the murder cases relating to the collapse of Rana Plaza, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology student Abrar Fahad’s killing involving 22 suspended BUET students, the murder case against sacked Major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque and 12 others in blogger Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy’s killing, the case against 15 people after Taslima Begum Renu was killed in a mob lynching and the trials of 15 accused including 12 police members in the case of the killing of the retired army major Sinha Md Rashed Khan.
The death reference of seven extremists sentenced to death for the July 1, 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack killed 22 people, including 17 foreigners, another reference of 16 convicts in madrassah student Nusrat Jahan Rafi were among the many sensational cases await hearings by the High Court.
There are money laundering cases that are also being held up and they include the cases against former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, suspended Faridpur Awami League leaders Sazzad Hossain Barkat and Imtiaz Hasan Rubel, suspended Jubo League president of Dhaka City Jubo League’s South Unit Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat, expelled Dhaka City Jubo League (South) vice-president Enamul Huq Arman, Gandaria unit Awami League leaders Enamul Haque Enu and Rupon Bhuiyan, and Dhaka Wanderers Club’s general secretary Joy Gopal Sarkar, expelled Juba Mahila League leader Shamima Nur Papia, separate bribery cases against former deputy inspector general of police Mizanur Rahman and suspended deputy inspector general of prisons Bazlur Rashid.
There are forgery cases against JKG Health Care chairperson Sabrina Sharmin Hussain and his husband and Regent Group’s chairman Md Shahed, which are also on hold.
There are other corruption cases that are also on hold, which include relating to purchasing of materials with excessive prices by Faridpur Medical College Hospital authorities and showing the abnormally high price for procuring pillows, furniture, and electronic articles for furnishing nine multi-storied buildings with the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Pabna, were among the sensational cases pending with district courts.
There is the Digital security Act case against senior journalist Probir Sikder which is also on hold.
The hearings of many death references in sensational murder cases and the convicts’ appeals against sentences were not being held by the online court of the High Court causing a delay in the disposal of many murder sensational cases.
On the trial of madrassah student Nusrat Jahan Rafi, her mother Shirin Akhter told New Age, ‘I appeal to the prime minister to take steps for immediately executing of all the 16 death-row convicts after disposal of their appeals by the High Court.’
The online Appellate Division also did not hold hearings of the appeals filed by death-row and other convicts during the restrictions causing a delay in disposal of many sensation cases including murder cases.
The appeals of two Chhatra League activists and the four other life term recipients in the sensational murder of 24-year old tailor Biswajit Das, appeals of local Awami League leader Noor Hossain and 14 RAB members, including the then commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Tarek Sayeed Mohammad in the murders of seven people in Narayanganj and the appeals against High Court’s verdict on the carnage at Pilkhana, the headquarters of the then Bangladesh Rifles, now Border Guard Bangladesh, were among the sensational cases pending hearings by the Appellate Division.
Selina Islam Beauty, widow of Nazrul Islam, one of the seven victims in Narayanganj seven murders, told New Age that she requested the attorney general to take immediate steps to dispose of the appeals of the convicts.
Attorney general AM Amin Uddin told New Age that the courts were operating on a limited scale to hear urgent cases amid the risk of lives of judges and lawyers during the pandemic.
He said that the government would take an initiative after return to normalcy so that courts could dispose of sensational cases on a priority basis.
Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court public prosecutor Abdullah Abu said that the online courts were not granting bails to accused in the sensational cases during the pendency of their trials.
Criminal law expert and Supreme Court lawyer SM Shajahan said that the online courts should not hear any important cases for the interest of the accused as ‘we have no mechanism to produce evidence before the online courts.’
Shajahan said that death-row convicts have been suffering in jails as there is no provision for seeking bails as they await their appeals for hearings.
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