Miscarriage of justice

Criminals go unpunished, the innocent suffer

Firoz Al Mamun

13th February, 2019 09:06:56 printer

Miscarriage of justice

There has been an outcry in all circles including law and administration and among the general people over the imprisonment of day labourer Jaha Alam instead of a bank loan scammer.

The way the innocent man was implicated in the case over misappropriation of bank money and his subsequent serving of jail term for more than three years has shaken the conscience of all in the society.

The role of bank officials, law enforcers and ACC investigators has become questionable that led to Jaha Alam’s imprisonment in place of the real culprit Salek, who embezzled Tk 18 crore from Sonali Bank through forgery and are now on the run. 

Jaha Alam walked to freedom following the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission and the High Court.

Like the ill-fated Tangail day labourer, who can barely write his name, a lot many are ‘languishing’ in jail being the victims of false cases and in a similar fashion.

The Jaha Alam incident came to light after a report was published in a newspaper on January 30 under the headline “An innocent man wrongly accused in jail in 33 cases: Sir, I am Jaha Alam, not Salek.”

Earlier in 2016, another innocent man served a one-week jail term in Natore. The incident brought to light the faulty system of identifying a person in a police station or court.

On February 24, 2016, police seized 100 litres of wine from the house of one Kalimuddin, son of Akher Pramanik of Gutia village in Singra upazila.

An addict Amir Hamza was held from the spot, except the homeowner. Kalimuddin and his wife managed to flee, but were sued the same day.

On April 7, Singra police submitted a charge sheet against the couple. On May 10, a Natore court issued a warrant for their arrest. As the accused were fugitive, the court also ordered attachment of their properties.

On September 27, the couple appeared in the court and prayed for bail, but the court rejected their bail petitions and sent them to jail.

A week later, it was identified that Kalimuddin did not appear in the court. His associate Azadul Islam appeared for him. On information from a police officer, the court examined the photo of Azadul and interrogated him on October 10.

During interrogation, Azadul told the judge that he was not Kalimuddin. He appeared at the behest of a lawyer and a court staff.

Had he known the possibility of rejection of bail, he would not have represented another person in the court. The court then directed police to arrest the real culprit.

In another incident, one Shah Alam Babu was sentenced to death for a murder committed by one Sundar Babu in Sutrapur area of the capital.

On August 29, 2006, the High Court ordered immediate release of Alam Babu from jail and arrest of the real culprit.

Gazi Liakat Hossain, a transport leader, was shot dead in his house in Sutrapur on March 14, 1998.

Sundar Babu along with others killed Liakat centring a dispute over money, said Rezaul Karim, the investigation officer of Liakat murder case.

To take revenge, the police officer presented Alam Babu as Sundar Babu.

There was no evidence to prove that Alam Babu was involved in the murder. His wife Rokeya Begum testified in the court that her husband was not involved in the case.

The then third additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge Shamsul Alam sentenced Alam Babu and his two aides to death and five others to life imprisonment.

A newspaper report revealed the truth that Alam Babu was a scapegoat. The HC’s attention was drawn to the incident by Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangstha.

Earlier, in 2005, Abu Safa had filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging an order of the High Court that directed the Election Commission to seek eight types of information from candidates at the time of submitting nomination papers.

In May 2005, the HC directed the EC to seek data from candidates about their education, income, assets, loans and criminal records.

Safa claimed that he was a permanent resident of Sandwip under Chattogram. He introduced himself as an aspirant and very popular among voters. He sought to be exempted from submitting eight types of information.

Vested interests tried to obstruct the implementation of HC order by filing the appeal in the name of Safa.

The SC questioned the legality of Safa’s petition on the grounds that he had nothing to do with the case.

An enquiry found that Safa did not live in Sandwip nor could he be traced in Dhaka and elsewhere.

According to legal experts, serving of jail terms and deposition by those not accused in any case occur sometimes in various parts of the country in the absence of a system to identify litigants and witnesses properly.

As a result, real criminals sometimes get off scot-free and innocent people suffer, they opined.

They stressed the need for a system to identify a complainant, accused, witness and appellant by the police or the court through their national identity cards.

Noted criminal lawyer Ehsanul Hoque Samaji said a complainant and police official concerned are supposed to identify an accused arrested.  

Section 4 of the Identification of Prisoners’ Act 1920 requires taking photograph of any accused or convict, he said, adding that the law should be applied properly.

The inquiry slip should include the details about the accused and the convict, he added.

“If anyone submits a statement hiding his or her real identity is a punishable offence as per Section 419 of the Penal Code. In judicial proceedings, if anybody adduces false evidence, he or she should be punished under Section 195.”

Police Regulation of Bengal 1943, Police Act 1861 and chapter 14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure should include a provision to identify a person connected to a case by their national ID cards, he added.

As per Section 172 of CrPC, an investigation prepares a case diary. The diary will show whether the investigation officer has deliberately implicated any person in a case or not.

Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court’s public prosecutor Abdullah Abu said the identities of the plaintiff, defendant and witnesses should be verified properly by the court before recording their statements.

Concerned defence lawyer should indentify the NIDs of the persons surrendering or being produced before the court to make sure that they the real accused, he added.

Police should also verify the identity of a person who they are arresting and producing before the court in connection with an offence.

If anybody appears in a court to represent another person, the opposite party should bring the matter to the notice of the judge.

Legal experts said the court should verify the identity of a client or a witness through their NIDs.

Sometimes, dishonest people use fake NIDs, they said, adding that every ID card has a serial number which should be checked.