Sunday, 28 November, 2021

WJP Report 2021 on Bangladesh Judiciary

Md. Zakir Hossain

WJP Report 2021 on Bangladesh Judiciary
Md. Zakir Hossain

The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index Report 2021 was published on October 15, 2021 in Washington, USA. Bangladesh has moved up a notch in the global ranking of countries where the rule of law prevails to 124th out of 139 countries across the world and in 2020 Bangladesh was 115th among 128 countries. Its overall score in the index however declined to 0.40 from 0.41. Bangladesh’s overall rule of law score decreased 2.8 per cent in this year’s Index. At 124th place out of 139 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, Bangladesh improved by one notch in global ranking.

Bangladesh’s score places it at four out of six countries in the South Asian region in the year of 2020 and 25 out of 35 among lower-middle income countries. In the last year six out of six countries declined in South Asia. Of those six countries, five had also declined in the previous year. [Press Release of WJP] Bangladesh’s score is 0.31 in fundamental rights and 0.32 in criminal justice, 0.35 in absence of corruption, 0.37 in constraints on government powers, 0.38 in civil justice, 0.40 in regulatory enforcement, 0.42 in open government and 0.63 in order and security.

Despite the improvement, Bangladesh remains just ahead of Afghanistan and Pakistan (with the global rankings of 134th and 130th respectively) in South Asia. Nepal topped in this region with a global 70th position, which was followed by Sri Lanka and India with 76th and 79th positions respectively. Like the previous year, the top three global places for overall rule of law went to Denmark (score 0.90), Norway (0.90) and Finland (0.88) and Venezuela (score 0.27), Cambodia (0.32) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (0.35) this year too remained at the bottom of the WJP index.

WJP Index performance is determined using 44 indicators across eight main ‘rule of law’ factors, each scored and ranked globally and regionally. The WJP Rule of Law Index is a report that measures the rule of law based on the experiences and perceptions of the general public and in-country legal practitioners and experts worldwide. [Dhaka Tribune, October 16, 2021]

The index is based on eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice. These factors are made up of 44 sub-factors.

In a year dominated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, 74.2 per cent of the countries covered experienced a decline in the rule of law performance, while 25.8 per cent improved. The countries that experienced declines this year account for 84.7 per cent of the world’s population, or approximately 6.5 billion people. The declines were widespread and seen in all corners of the world. For the second year in a row, in every region, a majority of countries slipped backward or remained unchanged in their overall rule of law performance. [Press Release of WJP]

In this Article, the Criminal Justice and Civil Justice will be addressed and analysed in the light of the report 2021. Criminal Justice is one of the basic factors of the report. According to WJP, “Factor eight of the WJP Rule of Law Index evaluates a country’s criminal justice system. An effective criminal justice system is a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the conventional mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offences against the society. An assessment of the delivery of criminal justice should take into consideration the entire system, including the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and prison officers.”

The key points of Criminal Justice evaluation are seven sub-points. Bangladesh is placed 85th in the effective criminal investigation system and 78th on the timely investigation in criminal cases. Its position is 72nd on the correctional (prison) system, 135th on impartial justice system, 118th on the criminal justice system as out of corruption, 123rd on the free of government influence and 137th on the following due process of law and rights of the accused.

The WJP evaluates Civil Justice containing seven factors of the WJP Rule of Law Index which measures whether ordinary people can resolve their grievances peacefully and effectively through the civil justice system. It measures whether the civil justice systems are accessible and affordable as well as free of discrimination, corruption and improper influences by public officials. It examines whether court proceedings are conducted without unreasonable delays and whether decisions are enforced effectively. It also measures the accessibility, impartiality and effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

In Bangladesh Civil Justice evaluation part, comparatively in two factors, Bangladesh gets a good position which are ‘civil justice is free of improper government influence’ (92nd) and ‘alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are accessible, impartial and effective’ (114th). We are 136th out of 139th in the factor of ‘civil justice is not subject to unreasonable delay’. These figures indicate our civil justice position in the world’s judicial ranking. We should improve our justice delivery system; reform legal statutes introduce digital judicial management and ensure speedy trial as well as execution of the judgments.

It is pertinent to suffix here that according to the National Justice Audit Report of 2019, 67 per cent people opined that they have faith in the existing judicial system. According to the national justice audit, only 13 per cent of people pursued formal justice methods in which nine per cent goes to the courts, whereas four per cent wants shelter of police, mostly due to the costs involved and the distance required to travel for getting easy, fair and cost-effective justice. In most cases it took two to five years to settle a case for which the people had to visit courts for 20 to 25 times. It took more than Tk 25,000 to settle a case, said the audit report. [The Daily Sun, September 13, 2019]

In Bangladesh, against around 100 Judges of the Supreme Court about almost 0.55 million pending cases and against almost 1,900 Judges for subordinate judiciary almost 3.4 million cases are to be heard and disposed of. In essence, the present number of Judges in Bangladesh is quite disproportionate to such a huge number of cases. The Law Commission of Bangladesh described in a research article in 2015 on the backlog of cases in the court and recommended that there should be appointed more 3,000 Judges to reduce the backlog of cases in the court.

During the corona pandemic, the world justice process was hampered due to lockdown and other problems. The Bangladesh judiciary has been conducting a huge work through virtual and actual systems. The Government has taken initiatives to enact the necessary laws and provide logistics support to carry out the judicial works. Bangladesh has done well compared to other countries in this period which is nicely admitted in the WJP report 2021.

According to the Supreme Court Report of 2020 (recently published), in 2020 in the Appellate Division (AD), 6,958 cases were filed and 15,350 were disposed of by the AD including pending cases. At the end of 2020, 15,225 cases were pending, whereas in 2019 it was 23617 cases. In the High Court Division (HCD), in 2020 the total filing of cases was 64,013 and disposal was of 34,192 cases. At the end of 2020, the total pending cases were 518,889 in HCD as per report of 2020 of SC. This statistic shows Honourable AD and HCD have relentlessly been working to ensure justice having huge barriers and problems during the pandemic.

“Justice delayed is Justice denied” is the real proposition of the justice system around the world. Fair and speedy trial is the fundamental rights of human beings. To improve in Rule of Law as well as justice delivery process in the world’s competition as per report of WJP, we should come forward with a better change in our legal framework of judiciary in terms of legal reform, increasing of judges, improving logistics support and digital system and speedy disposal of cases.


The writer is a Senior Judicial Magistrate at the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Feni