Wrongful imprisonment is a travesty of justice

Published: 00:00, Nov 13,2019 | Updated: 00:10, Nov 13,2019


SEVERAL cases of wrongful arrests have been reported in the recent past. The latest of them is the case of Md Rajan Bhuiyan of Cumilla, as New Age reported on Tuesday, who had been detained in the Dhaka central jail since October 16 after the police had wrongfully arrested him instead of the accused, Habibullah Rajan, his fellow villager. Habibullah was in May 2012 arrested in a narcotic substance case but he obtained bail and had been a fugitive since then. The mistake on part of the Brahmanpara police could be detected on November 7 when Habibullah appeared in court to seek bail. When Rajan Bhuiyan’s lawyer brought the issue to the attention of the Dhaka Speedy Tribunal 1, the court ordered the jail authorities to set him free and summoned the police officer responsible to explain his negligence. The acquittal of the man not accused in the cases and the summoning of the negligent officer offer redress to the wrong done, but it calls into question the investigation of the law enforcement agencies which needs to be structurally addressed because this is one among many cases of wrongful arrest. Such incidents risk public confidence in the justice delivery system.

In January, the wrongful conviction of jute mill worker Jaha Alam caused public outrage. Jaha Alam, who had languished in jail for three years because he had been wrongly identified as Abu Salek, a businessman, and was arrested in connection with cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission for the misappropriation of money. In April, the High Court while exonerating Jaha Alam observed procedural weakness in investigations, warned both the commission and the police. In a similar case in Natore, Bablu Sheikh had spent two months in jail for not committing any crime and fought a legal battle for 17 years before he was acquitted on October 19. The travesty of justice identifies negligence of officers responsible at every step along the way — the police official who by mistake arrested a citizen without establishing his identity, the police officer-in-charge who signed the challan book without ensuring that the right person was arrested and the investigation officers who did not bother to verify facts and other details of the victim and the accused when they submitted the charge sheet. All this points to the possibility of many being wrongly arrested and having to fight long-drawn battles before their acquittal for the crimes they have never committed. The claim of rights activists that majority of one in three prisoners detained without trial is in imprisonment without any offences could, therefore, be true.

The move of the Dhaka speedy tribunal in Rajan’s acquittal or the High Court order to compensate Jaha Alam would certainly help people to regain confidence, but the gross negligence of the law enforcement agencies must be addressed urgently to prevent any future wrongful arrest and detention.

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