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21 September, 2019 12:58:01 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 21 September, 2019 11:15:21 AM

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Convicts languish in jails as death references pile up

MUHAMMAD YEASIN, Dhaka
Convicts languish in jails as death references pile up

Inzamul Huq, a student of class six at Tongi in Gazipur district, was kidnapped on October 17, 2007, and was killed the same day. The additional district and session judge court of Gazipur sentenced three persons in connection with the killing.

After the court order, the jail authorities kept the convicted persons in the condemned cell. Since the court order, the convicted persons have been languishing in the condemned cell, but the death references are yet to be disposed of by the High Court (HC). Like them, 1,715 other convicts are languishing in condemned cells across the country because hundreds of death reference cases are awaiting disposal by the HC.

Sources said although death reference cases have been increasing in recent years, the authorities concerned have not increased the number of HC benches for quick disposal of the cases.

The HC usually disposes of death reference cases serially year by year. As per the system, the court is at present disposing of the death reference cases of 2014.

The convicts are sent to the condemned cells soon after being sentenced to death by lower courts. The convicts then face the agony of uncertainty over their fate till the disposal of the death references and their appeals, a Supreme Court (SC) official said, requesting anonymity.

According to SC sources, 737 death reference cases are now pending before the HC for disposal. This figure of death references are higher compared to the last 16 years.  

A total of 32 death references are now pending before the Appellate Division for final approval, the sources added.

Considering the immense suffering of prisoners convicted by trial courts, former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha had assigned four HC benches to expedite the trial proceedings of death references. But now only three benches dispose of death reference cases due to lack of sufficient number of HC judges.

A former law minister emphasised the need for increasing the number of High Court benches for dealing with death references cases, considering its importance for death row convicts.

He said there are some important death references pending before the HC for disposal. All these cases should be disposed of quickly. The death reference cases should be heard continuously

once the hearing begins. New judges should also be appointed to increase the number of HC benches to deal with death references, he added.

According to HC sources, 117 death-row convicts had filed appeals against their death penalties before the HC in 2011, while 100 and 315 condemned convicts had moved the court seeking acquittal orders in 2012 and 2013, respectively. As many as 205 such convicts had appealed against their death sentences in 2014, while the same number of appellants had moved the HC in 2015.

The sources also said 477 death reference cases were pending before the HC in 2015 and the HC benches disposed of 58 cases.

In 2016, the number of such cases was 580 and the HC benches disposed of only 45 cases. In 2017, a total of 706 death reference cases were pending before the HC for disposal and the HC benches disposed of 66 death reference cases, while it was 711 in 2018 and the HC benches disposed of 83 death reference cases.

Till July this year, the number of death reference cases stood at 737, while the HC benches disposed of 59 death reference cases by this time, sources added.

Sources also said the 737 pending death reference cases deal with over 1,715 convicts.

According to the sources, the authorities have started working on completing the “paper books” of all the pending cases of 2014. A “paper book” contains all documents, including case details, charge-sheet and seizure list, testimonies of witnesses and cross examinations as well as the trial court’s verdict. After completion of the necessary work, the Chief Justice assigns an HC bench for disposal of the matter.

Former National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman Mizanur Rahman said long delays in disposal of cases violated human rights. “A large number of prisoners convicted by trial courts are suffering mentally due to uncertainty over their fate. The cases should be taken care of as quickly as possible so that the litigants get justice in time,” he added.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president advocate Khandaker Mahbub Hossain,said crime had increased in recent years and that was why the lower courts awarded death penalty in sensitive cases. He also said more HC benches with skilled judges were needed to dispose of the death reference cases considering their importance.


IK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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