Arrests without warrants on suspicion : Police flout HC directives

Tapos Kanti Das and Manzur H Maswood

The police arrest citizens on suspicion and without warrants in gross violation of 15 directives issued by the High Court in 2003.
On April 7, 2003, the land mark verdict was delivered by a  bench of Justice Md Hamidul Haque and Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury.
The verdict contained the directives to the police, the jailors and the sessions judges to ensure that no violation of human rights occurred to anyone arrested on suspicion.
The court prohibited arrest of anyone by police officers using  Section 54 for the purpose of detention.
The directive requires police officers to disclose their identity by showing their identity cards  on demand from anyone to be arrested or those present at the time of arrest.
In the verdict, the court directed the police to furnish the reasons of arrest within three hours of bringing the any arrested person  to the police station.
It directed the police to inform relatives over phone or by sending  messengers within one hour of bringing to the police station anyone arrested from outside their homes or places of work.
Rights campaigners said that the directives were seldom followed by the police.
They said that practice of keeping citizens in police custody for days together without informing their relatives after arresting them on mere suspicion without warrants.
A study report released by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, in short BLAST in December revealed that the police seldom adhered to the HC directives.
The 60-page study report says that out of 56 citizens arrested without warrants interviewed 34 said that they were not told the reasons of their arrests at the time of arrests.
It says, 48 said that their families were not given the information that they had been arrested.
The report says that 45 persons arrested without warrants said that they were denied the opportunity to meet their lawyers and family members.
It quoted 12 persons as saying that they were produced before courts more than 24 hours after they were arrested without warrants.
Out of 56 arrested without warrants 34 fell sick in custody and nine of them received no treatments.
Ain O Salish Kendra executive director Sultana Kamal said that the police flouted the HC directives because they think that they enjoyed impunity.
She said , ‘The police responds by committing greater excesses whenever we protest such violations.’
She told New Age that though non compliance of court directives constitutes contempt of court there was no effective monitoring of these abuses within the police administration.
She said courts depend on investigation by the police ‘If we try to monitor from the outside or lodge complaints against these abuses.’
National Human Rights Commission chairman Mizanur Rahman called it extremely regrettable that the police don’t care to show the reasons why people were arrested on  suspicion without any warrants.
The cause for greater concern, he said, was that the police these days implicate innocent people in drug cases by putting drugs in their pockets.
The police also threaten innocent people that they would be implicated in pending cases relating to
arson attacks, drug peddling, acid throwing or other charges for refusing to pay.
This cannot be acceptable in a civilized society, he said.
The incidents, he said, expose not only the refusal of the police to comply with the HC directives but also their growing involvement with human rights violations and various crimes.
The incidents also reveal lack of  transparency within the police force, said the NHRC chairman.
Bangladesh Police spokesman  Nazrul Islam, however, claimed  arrests under Section 54 dropped to almost nil since the  directives were issued by the HC.
He said that around 1,500 people were  arrested across the country every day and almost none under Section 54.
The HC also directed the police to keep a separate register for  recording the reasons of arrest on suspicion with other particulars.
The HC issued the directives in a verdict it delivered following  a public interest writ petition jointly filed by BLAST and  other rights organizations and activists against the police’s  ’ arbitrary powers of arrest on suspicion and torture of the  arrested persons in police custody.
The writ petition was filed after  university student Shamim Reza Rubel’s death in police custody following his arrest under Section 54 in July 1998.

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