THE wrongful arrest and the false imprisonment of innocent people having been passed off as offenders by law enforcers investigating cases, acting in collusion with lawyers in some cases, worryingly continue supposedly because the law enforcers, along with lawyers in some cases, responsible for such frauds go unpunished. At least 26 people are reported to have done their time between September 2013 and March 2021 in prisons for years because their name and their father’s matched with those of the offenders. In most of the cases, the people thus imprisoned have ultimately been released from jail on court orders, but none of law enforcers who investigated the case has ever been punished for their neglect of duty. The police officers having gone unpunished appears to have created impunity of a sort that may have tended the repeat of such wrongful police conduct. In the latest such incident, the High Court on June 7 ordered the Chattogram Central Jail superintendent to release a woman, mother of three and widow of a cart-puller, who did her time for almost three years for a fugitive convict. All this happened even after the original offender had been arrested on October 26, 2007 and remanded on bail on February 18, 2009.
Some police personnel — who deter crimes by arresting criminals, investigating crimes and standing offenders in the court of law for a proper justice dispensation — are said to be acting in collusion with some lawyers and others in identifying innocent people as offenders, who run into wrongful arrest and even false imprisonment. And all this, as lawyers and court officials say, is not a new phenomenon as innocent people were brought to the court in the past as proxies for the accused during hearing. Such frauds, involving mainly police negligence that mostly appears to be deliberate do not only jeopardise people’s right to life, freedom and movement, they also blemish justice dispensation. A former inspector general of police is reported to be saying that police investigation officers are mainly responsible for the wrongful arrest of innocent people and the wrong-doing personnel should be punished with departmental proceedings for neglect of duty and the recurrence of the travesty of justice. While token punishment such as departmental proceedings may not be adequately deterrent for errant police personnel, there should be provisions for penalty of a more severe degree to stop such police crimes. Bangladesh, which is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, should enact a law relating to the compensation of victims of wrongful detention and false imprisonment, which may lead to an effective curb on such fraudulent practice of police personnel.
The government must, therefore, put in place a mechanism for punishment for police personnel, and perhaps for lawyers and others acting in collusion, responsible for the wrongful detention of innocent people and make legislation on adequate compensation for victims of such fraudulent police practice. The government must also arrange for police training, if there is deficiency on this count, especially based on the principle of the presumption of innocence to effectively deal with this troubling issue.
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