A well-meaning court order that has lied ignored for years

Updated at 10:46pm on February 14, 2020

THE continuance of arrest without warrants or on suspicion, interrogation and detention without adherence to the 19-point directives that the court earlier issued for the law enforcement agencies to comply with has raised Appellate Division concern. The High Court in 2003 issued 15-point directives regarding arrest on suspicion, interrogation and unacknowledged detention, primarily aimed at stopping involuntary disappearances. The Appellate Division in May 2016, when the government filed an appeal against the High Court judgement that was dismissed, added four points, making it a 19-point directive, 10 of which were made mandatory for the law enforcement agencies and the rest mandatory for judicial magistrates. The Appellate Division on Thursday, in response to a government appeal that sought a review of the guidelines ordered on the law enforcement agencies and judicial magistrates, reproved the government for not having implemented the judgement. While the court reprimanded the government for not taking the court directives and guideline seriously, and thus having left them ignored, about 18 years after the judgement that was given in 2003, the government’s seeking review of the mandatory guideline for judicial magistrates is said to be a contravention of the government’s Human Rights Report, submitted to the UN Convention on Human Rights in 2019, which states that the Supreme Court verdict has been a great success on human rights scene.

But what makes the whole of it worrying is the review of the points of the directives that the government has sought. The government has sought the review of the point in the guideline which warrants that the law enforcement agencies should immediately disclose the reason after the arrest of a person and obtain the signature of the arrested with the date and time of arrest. The government has sought the requirement for the law enforcement agencies to record the name and address of the informants and complaints to be reviewed. A review has been sought for the provision that requires the law enforcers to inform the family of the arrested in 12 hours after the arrest. The government has sought a review of the directive for the magistrates that they could take action on their own against the law enforcement personnel concerned under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2008 if the arrested is subjected to torture and dies in custody. The government has also opposed the directive on arrest and remanding the arrested in custody saying that serious crimes such as rape, drug peddling and extremism could not be stopped with adherence to such ‘theoretical guideline’ of the court. The directives that the government has sought to be reviewed suggest that it is bent on running into an affront to the rule of law.

Successive governments, at least since 2003, have not lifted a finger to implement the court judgement although political parties, while being in the opposition camp, have fallen victim to what the court has ordered the government to stop by way of the judgement in furtherance of the rule of law. Involuntary disappearances usually begin with some of the directives that the government has sought to be reviewed. Unless the government implements the court directive, it becomes difficult to ensure the accountability of law enforcers in view of the continued abuse of legal provisions. The government must, therefore, come to its sense and implement the court order early and in earnest.