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21st-May-2016

Bail refusal and police remand no less alarming for innocent ones

By Editorial Desk

The Chief Justice of Bangladesh Mr Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has found arrest of people by plain-clothes men alarming. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal against the judgement of the High Court Division giving a fifteen-point guidelines on arrest and interrogation by police. Despite those clear, specific and binding guidelines these are ignored by the lower judiciary to follow to make justice kindly and fair.
In Bangladesh, extremism is no less alarming because of the way the government policy is contributing to extremism and string of vicious killings. The high ranking US Ambassador Mr William B Milam who is known also as senior policy scholar has warned in an article published in The New York Times Friday that to respond to the wave of attacks as though it were principally a security issue, rather than a governance problem, would only make matter worse. He is critical of strengthening cooperation of US and India with Bangladesh authorities to counter terrorism.
It is relevant for our judiciary to realise how important not to be influenced by wrong political perception of the government in dealing with the crime situation. The courts will have to be more cautious about easy abuse of police power in the name of fighting extremism when good governance is lacking. The judiciary must do what it is required to do, protecting people's rights in doing justice. Let politics be left for political leaders.
Nobody must get away with the idea that the police can make anybody of a free country helpless to police power because the judiciary is not above them.
If followed the guidelines given by the High Court Division in the form of a judgement, it would have greatly hindered politically abusing police power and in turn abusing the justice system.
So it be said that by being tough on bail the criminal justice system has subjected itself to be abused. It has become easier to use the courts to deny innocent people their personal liberty when the courts' constitutional commitment is protecting one's right to be free. If the government wants to detain anybody politically let it do so politically without giving bad name to the judiciary.
Again, by sending an accused to police custody the courts are making citizens of a free country totally helpless to the police. Whether used in all case or not we have a torture cell for use even in normal criminal cases.
 Countries use torture centres like American Guantanamo camp against enemies of the country. Even such actions are criticised as violation of human rights. But not torture cells as part of normal criminal prosecution.
Our Constitution prohibits torture or degrading treatment for incriminating any one. Yet, using torture has become systemic in our criminal justice process.
The sanctity of the Constitution means most importantly the sanctity of the justice system. It is the most sacred responsibility of the courts to be the protector of the constitutional rights of the people.
The judges knowingly and freely have chosen to bear the burden of protecting freedom for the people. They cannot be faint-hearted about protecting the people's rights and freedom. They are independent and above politics.
Our view has long been to make bail easy for the need of making justice to be transparent. Nobody should have reason to become fearful of false cases by police to suffer in jail and be harassed. To be innocent is to be proved when trial takes place after years of incarceration.
We have insisted time and again that sending an accused into police custody for interrogation is a disservice to fair justice. Justice is not a matter to be determined in dark cells of a dark corner. We are civilised enough for deserving civilised treatment
Being tough on granting bail has not stopped rising of serious crimes. The people have reasons to doubt that  dangerous criminals remain free under political protection because keeping the innocent ones in jail is so easy. So harshness of police action has no justification for making life safe.
The major corruption in the lower judiciary is centring on bail and police remand. The Supreme Court should know more about it. The story is, those who can afford do not come to the Supreme Court for bail. Those who come are told of law.
Because refusing bail has not reduced crime should be the justification for making bail easy. Terrorism is growing for the incompetence of the government. The solution is not defending arbitrary power.