JAIL appeals filed by more than 1,300 people, incapable of hiring lawyers, against their sentences have been pending with the High Court for years, causing many of them to languish in jail even after serving out the terms. Convicts, who are too poor to engage lawyers, can appeal against their sentences, pronounced by district or metropolitan court, to the High Court through jail superintendents and they are entitled to get free legal aid from government-appointed counsels. As of May 13, 1,321 jail appeals were pending with the High Court, according to an official at the Supreme Court registrar’s office. Of the appeals, 96 were placed before eight High Court benches for hearing and 200 others were ready to be placed before the benches, the official said. He said that 127 jail appeals would be prepared soon for hearing, while the rest 898 were yet to be prepared as the trial court records in the cases were not sent to the High Court yet. Supreme Court lawyer M Baharuddin Al Razi, a panel lawyer for state-run National Legal Aid Organization, told New Age that many of the poor convicts were languishing in jails even after serving out the terms as their appeals were still pending. According to court officials, appeals of convicts who had already served out the terms had been sorted out in 2012 and the then chief justice Md Muzammel Hossain had decided that those appeals might be disposed in a single order by the benches concerned. Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, however, had later backtracked on the decision on the ground that human rights of appellants might be violated if their appeals were disposed of without hearing. On April 30, a High Court bench of Justice Md Abu Tariq and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil dismissed a jail appeal of one Shah Alam, observing that his appeal became ‘ineffective’ as he had already served out the seven-year prison term given by a Feni Sessions Judge’s Court on March 14, 1992 on charge of theft. The bench is assigned the hearing of the jail appeals filed till 2008 and the appellants have been serving in jail in those cases for seven years or more. Shah Alam, 55, however, was released from Noakhali prison in 1997 serving out the term and he was now working as ‘Khadem’ at a shrine at his village, Aziz Fazilpur at Daganbhuiyan in Feni, local police station assistant sub-inspector Abdur Rahim told New Age. National Legal Aid panel lawyer Md Khabir Uddin, who conducted Shah Alam’s case, said that the court record mentioned that he was in Comilla Central Jail from where he filed the appeal on September 29, 1994. The appeal was placed before the bench for hearing on April 29, 2015, more than 21 years after the filing of the appeal. Baharuddin Al Razi said that many of the appellants were forced to languish in jail even after being acquitted by the High Court because of delay in releasing the verdicts by the judges or dispatching them by section officials to the jail or the trial court for lack of lobbying in such cases. On May 31, the bench of Justice Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury and Justice Bhishmadev Chakrabortty acquitted Md Meher Ali, Nil Jan, Suna Miah and Maqbul Hossain allowing their appeals against a trial court verdict that had sentenced them to impressments for 10 years in 2008 on charge of theft of railways instruments. The verdict was yet to be signed by the judges, said court officials.
Source: New Age