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14 February, 2020 12:26:04 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 February, 2020 06:15:02 PM

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Enforced disappearances must cease: SC

AG wants SC to review its order against Section 54 of CrPC
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
Enforced disappearances must cease: SC

Expressing dissatisfaction over the non-implementation of a 16-year-old High Court (HC) order that sought reforms in the provisions for arrest without a warrant, the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday observed that enforced disappearances must cease. The apex court raised questions why an HC order could not be implemented even 16 years after the verdict.

The observations were issued by a six-member bench of the Appellate Division (AD), headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, during a hearing on a review petition filed by the government.

The petition was filed against an earlier HC verdict that sought reforms in the provisions for arrest without a warrant and interrogation on remand under Sections 54 and 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The AD noted that even they (the justices) or their relatives could be arrested under Section 54 at any time.

The SC bench touched upon the complete lack of information about the people who remains missing even five years after their disappearances. During yesterday’s proceedings, the apex court demanded of the state lawyers: “Who will accept responsibility for the incident? Will the state take responsibility?”

Paris-based human rights group International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in a report titled “Vanished without a Trace: The Enforced Disappearance of Opposition and Dissent in Bangladesh”, said enforced disappearances had been continuing with alarming frequency in Bangladesh

amid a tense and highly polarised political environment.

At least 92 people are believed to have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the authorities in 2018, bringing the total number of cases of such disappearances documented since the beginning of 2009 to 507, according to the report.

 Among the 507 cases of enforced disappearances that have been documented by civil society organisations from January 2009 to the end of 2018, 62 people were found dead, 286 were returned alive, and the whereabouts of 159 disappeared persons is still unknown.

Following the hearing, Attorney General (AG) Mahbubey Alam told the SC that the government was unable to arrest militants and terrorist leaders due to the SC order against Section 54 of the CrPC. He also said that the AD should review the order in the greater interest of the country and its peace-loving people.

The SC bench then asked the chief state lawyer to submit a written application specifying the problems faced by the government following the verdict regarding Section 54 of the CrPC. “We will not allow the review petition in full. Give us specific points clarifying the problem following the apex court’s verdict regarding Section 54 of the CrPC,” it told the AG.

Later, the AD fixed April 16 as the date for a hearing on the review petition.

On May 24, 2016, the SC had upheld an HC order that sought reforms in the provisions for arrest without a warrant and interrogation on remand under Sections 54 and 167 of the CrPC. After rejecting the state’s appeal, the four-member bench of the AD at the time—headed by the then Chief Justice SK Sinha—upheld the 15 directives of the HC, noting that Sections 54 and 67 of the CrPC were contradictory to Sections 31, 33, and 35.

Earlier, in 1998, Assistant Commissioner Akram Hossain of the Detective Branch (DB) of the police had arrested Shamim Reza, a student of Independent University, under Section 54 of the CrPC. The student had eventually died in police custody and the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) filed a writ petition before the HC in 2003. The court asked the government to take steps to amend the relevant sections of the CrPC.

At the time, the court also issued 15 directives for amending Section 54. These included: (a) law enforcers must not arrest anyone under Section 54 to put him/her in detention; (b) they must show their identity cards while arresting the person; (c) they must inform the person about the reason behind the arrest within three hours; (d) they must inform the relatives of a person arrested anywhere outside his/her house or workplace within an hour of the arrest through telephone or a messenger; (e) the detainee must be allowed to meet lawyers and relatives for legal assistance; (f) if law enforcers want to quiz the person in custody, they must take permission from a magistrate and the interrogation must take place in a glass room inside the prison, and relatives and lawyers of the detainee can be present outside the room.

In 2004, the Four-Party Alliance government filed an appeal against the HC verdict. But the apex court rejected the state’s appeal in 2016. Later, the government filed a review petition against the apex court order, which is currently being heard in the apex court.

JGD

 

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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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