Police authorities must listen to President and Chief Justice to save police03 February 2017 Editorial Desk
On December 14, the High Court directed Gaibandha's Chief Judicial Magistrate to investigate police involvement in setting fire. Three Santal men were killed and 30 people, including nine policemen, were injured in a clash with law enforcers and workers of Rangpur Sugar Mills in Gobindaganj on November 6. The clash broke out when workers of Rangpur Sugar Mills along with police went to Bagda Farm area to reclaim land of the Sugar Mills allegedly occupied by the Santal community.
This is not the first time that members of the security forces have been alleged to have been involved in criminal activity. Earlier on Jan 26, ATN News cameraperson Abdul Alim was attacked while recording footage of some policemen beating up and dragging an anti-Rampal activist in front of Shahbagh Police Station. Then they pounced on the channel's reporter Kazi Ihsan bin Didar when he protested against the assault on his colleague.
After primary investigation, the authorities suspended Assistant Sub-Inspector Ershad Mondol and identified 14-15 others involved in the unprovoked attack. On the same day, police assaulted a Dhaka Tribune journalist at Mirpur when he approached them to confirm reports of a Traffic Sergeant ordering a bus to plough into the anti-Rampal protesters who were trying to bring out a procession.
Similarly, senior officials of RAB were involved in the seven murder case in Narayanganj. Earlier on January 23, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked the members of police force to be more pro-people by changing the colonial attitude. A clear evidence of this exists as the SC wants proper enforcement of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013 that prohibits both mental and physical torture in any situation and death in custody of law enforcement agencies. But police seeks cancellation of this Act as the force claims the law has curbed their "rights".
The police even claimed the law enforcers will lose their dedication to work if this law remains in force which might hamper security of the state and the people. To get the law scrapped, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's intervention was sought as she attended the Police Annual Parade at Rajarbagh Police Lines on January 23.
Even though, the law was enacted more than three years ago, alleged torture by law enforcement agencies and custodial deaths didn't stop. Records of Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights body, show at least 147 people died in custody in the last two years. According to ASK, 78 people died in custody in only last one year. Of them, 32 were convicted and 46 were detainees.
In 2015, the number of custodial death was 69, and of them, 42 were facing trial, according to ASK's record prepared on the basis of newspaper reports. Moreover, a section of lower-tier police officers were accused of engaging in extortion by threatening people with cases. In last one year, more than a dozen such cases were reported in Dhaka Metropolitan Police area alone, according to a Local Newspaper report published on November 13, 2016.
Against this backdrop, the SC has directed judicial magistrates to take action against errant police officers whenever they find infringement of this law that was passed by the Parliament amid widespread allegations of police torture. President Abdul Hamid told them at a programme at Bangabhaban, marking Police Week 2017 on Wednesday: "Getting the security of their lives and property is the right of people, not the mercy of anyone (police). You (police) should remember that you get salaries and allowances from public money." This attitude from the colonial past must change for the police to become a more disciplined and democratic force which respects the rights of all citizens.