No end to remand, torture in custody: HC verdicts being flouted

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M Moneruzzaman

Incidents of people being remanded in police custody and subjected to torture during interrogation continued unabated in violation of two High Court rulings delivered 13 years ago.
Criminal law experts and rights activists said that interrogation in police custody ignoring the directives detailed in the verdicts was contemptuous and a clear violation of law as the directives were legally binding on the government.
On April 7, 2003, a High Court bench laid down a 15-point directive, including setting up rooms with glass walls in jails for interrogation and to quiz arrested people at jail gates in presence of their relatives and lawyers until such rooms were prepared.
The bench of Justice Md Hamidul Haque and Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury had delivered the verdict on a writ petition relating to the arrest and killing of university student Shamim Reza Rubel, who was tortured to death in custody of the Detective Branch of police in 1998.
Another bench of Justice SK Sinha, now the chief justice, and Justice Sharifuddin Chaklader, in a verdict delivered on August 4, 2003, laid down an 11-point guideline regarding arrest and remand in custody and ordered circulation of the guideline to all police stations and metropolitan and judicial magistrates in three months.
The verdict said police officers and the magistrates failing to go by the guideline in three months would be liable to punishment for contempt of court in case any application was filed by the aggrieved person.
No circular have yet been issued as per the High Court directives, said police and court officials.
The first verdict had also said that if the investigation officer concerned filed an application for remanding the arrested person in custody for interrogation, he must state in details the grounds for the remand and would produce ‘case diary’ for  consideration of the magistrate.
If the magistrate is satisfied that the accused be sent back to police custody for a period not more than three days, after recording the reasons, he may order detention in police custody for that period, said the verdict.
Before granting the remand, the magistrate would ascertain whether the grounds for the arrest was justified and the accused was given opportunity to consult lawyers of his choice, said the verdict.
The verdict said that before remanding an arrested person in police custody, he should be examined by a doctor and the medical report should be submitted to the magistrate concerned.
After taking the accused into custody, only the investigation officer would be entitled to interrogate the person and after expiry of the period, the investigation officer would produce the accused before the magistrate, said the verdict.
In case the arrested person makes any allegation of torture, the magistrate at once will send him to the same doctor for examination, said the verdict.
It said that if the magistrate finds that the arrested person sustains injuries during interrogation in custody, he would take action against the investigation officer concerned even if the accused does not lodge a complaint.
Nagarik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna told a metropolitan magistrate court on Saturday that he was worried about security of his life as he had been tortured during interrogation in police custody.
Manna has been on remand in police custody since his arrest on February 24. He was implicated in two cases – one for ‘trying to instigate mutiny in the armed forces’ and the other for sedition for his alleged attempts to topple the government by instigating violence.
Sanaullah Mia, lawyer of detained Bangladesh Nationalist Party joint secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, told New Age that Rizvi has been on remand in police custody since he was arrested on January 21. A team of Rapid Action Battalion had picked up Rizvi from Baridhara and handed him over to Badda police. He was shown arrested in four cases relating to arson attacks on buses during the blockade and hartal.
Earlier, acting BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, its vice-chairman, war-wounded freedom fighter Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury and private television ETV chairman Abdus Salam had been remanded in police custody for interrogation in separate cases in January. The three are still in jail.
Mirza Fakhrul, aged 66, was admitted to Central Police Hospital on February 8 after he fell sick in police custody for the second time since his arrest, according to a writ petition filed by his wife Rahat Ara Begum for shifting him to BSMMU hospital.
Supreme Court lawyer and BRAC University law teacher Shahdeen Malik told New Age on Sunday that Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, arrested on charges of war crimes in 1971, were interrogated in line with the verdict on remand.
Unfortunately, other accused had not been given such opportunity as yet, he added.
He said that the present mode of arrests and their interrogation in police custody ‘is a clear violation of fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed by the Articles 31 and 35 of the constitution’.
‘Violation of the apex court verdicts is tantamount to contempt of the court as an apex court verdict is mandatory for all as per Article 111 of the constitution,’ he said.
Supreme Court Bar Association president Khandker Mahbub Hossain said that the police were arresting opposition activists disregarding due process of law and magistrate courts were remanding them in custody on police appeals ignoring the guidelines of the apex court.
When approached, senior Supreme Court lawyer Rafique-ul Huq declined comments on the matter.
Referring to the first verdict in which Sara Hossain represented Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust she told New Age on Sunday that she had doubt whether the High Court directives were complied with in the cases of arrest and remand.
She said non-compliance of the directives of the apex court amounted to contempt of the court and it was also a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens and action should be taken against persons responsible.
Law minister Anisul Huq and attorney general Mahbubey Alam said that the government was ‘aggrieved’ by the 15 directives issued in the first verdict and declined further comments saying only that the matter was pending with the Appellate Division.
As the Appellate Division had not stayed the 15-point directive, it remained valid till date, said Sara Hossain.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner (media and publication) Masudur Rahman said that the police acted in accordance with the law and the High Court directives.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer M Amirul Islam, who moved the petition on which the second verdict was delivered, declined comments on the execution of the ruling.
He, however, said that the verdict was still in force.
The second verdict had directed that the police officer concerned would prepare a memorandum of arrest and obtain the signature of the arrested person with the date and time of arrest, intimate the matter to a nearest relative of the arrested person as soon as possible, but not later than six hours after the arrest informing the relative of the time and place of arrest.
It had also said that the entry must be made in the diary justifying the ground for the arrest and name of the person on whose information or complaints the person has been arrested along with his address and would also disclose the names and particulars of the relative or the friend to whom information is given about the arrest and the particulars of the police officer in whose custody the arrested person is staying.
Copies of all the documents, including the memorandum of arrest and the information or complaint, should be sent to the magistrate at the time of production of the arrested person, said the verdict.
The verdict said that it would be the duty of the magistrate to be satisfied that these requirements had been complied with before making any order relating to remand of the arrested person in police custody or sending them to jail.
The second verdict made the 11 directives declaring illegal the detentions of the then Chhatra League president Liakat Sikder and vice-president Rafiqul Islam Kotwal. One Saifuzzaman filed a petition challenging the detention of the two BCL leaders, the student wing of Awami League.

Source: New Age