Trust in the Bangladesh justice system lost due to delayed action

Long delays in trials, harassment surrounding giving testimonies are among a number of obstacles that discourage people from seeking justice.

Wasim Bin Habib

Wasim Bin Habib

The Daily Star


Dolly wrote "I Love You, Nahid" on her hand with mehendi few days back. Photo: Palash Khan

April 22, 2022

DHAKA – They were innocent and young and had nothing to do with the events that ended their lives. The brutality of the murders calls for exemplary punishment, yet their families are not seeking justice.

Samia Afran Prity, a college student, was on her way to her friend’s home when an Awami League leader’s assailants opened fire on a busy street at Shahjahanpur on March 26. Prity, who was on a rickshaw, got shot and she died.

Her father Jamal Uddin, while lamenting his only daughter’s untimely death, repeatedly said that he did not want justice.

“Where would I seek justice? There is no justice here,” the inconsolable father told reporters as he waited for his daughter’s body in front of the Dhaka Medical College morgue.

“[We] will not get justice even if we want. To run a case, you need money. We won’t survive if we are to run the case … ,” the mother told reporters at her Kamrangirchar home.

Exact is the sentiment of the family members of Mohammad Morsalin, another victim of the New Market clashes. The 24-year-old employee of a shop was hit by a brick chunk and succumbed to his wounds at the DMCH yesterday.

“There is no justice in the country. Who will give us justice?” Morsalin’s wailing brother Nur Mohammad told reporters while waiting for the body at the morgue.

Why do the families not want justice for their loved ones’ violent deaths? Do they assume there is no point seeking justice? Or do they fear the lengthy and expensive legal process?

Whatever the reasons may be, such sentiments should ring alarm bells. It manifests a lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

And this did not happen overnight.

Long delays in trials, including in some sensational cases; inability to pay for legal services; harassment surrounding giving testimonies; and insecurity of witnesses and complainants discourage people from seeking justice.

Take the cases of Taqi and Tonu murders as examples.

Narayanganj teenager Tanwir Muhammad Taqi went missing after he left home for a local library on March 6, 2013. His body was found floating on the Shitalakkhya two days later.

A case was filed on March 8, 2013. Nine years have passed but the wait for justice continues. The investigation into the killing stalled for reasons unfathomable to people.

Sohagi Jahan Tonu, a student of Cumilla Victoria Government College, was found murdered in Cumilla Cantonment area on March 20, 2016. She was also raped. The incident caused national outrage.

Six years on, the killers are still at large as the police probe is yet to make any headway.

Another example is the double murder of Sagar and Runi.

The journalist couple were slain on February 11, 2012. Over the last 10 years, the investigation officer was changed six times. Rab and other law enforcement agencies have taken 85time extensions from court to complete the probe.

But they have not been able to submit an investigation report.

As of December 31, 2020, over 39 lakh cases are pending with courts across the country. Between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, only 7.39 lakh cases could be disposed of.

At the High Court, around 4.5 lakh cases are pending as of December 31, 2020.

The delays brew scepticism. Litigants face various obstacles in getting justice, beginning from the investigation stage and continuing until the verdict is delivered and executed.

Even though verdicts have been executed in some sensational cases, those were apparently not enough to restore the confidence in the legal system of Jamal, Nargis, Nur and others.

They fear they would not get justice if the accused are influential or belong to political parties. They feel helpless.

“We don’t want justice” is not just an expression. This offers glimpses into the people’s pent-up resentment, frustration and crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system. We must not ignore the fact that when families of such three victims say they do not want justice, it points to something seriously wrong in the criminal justice system.

It is therefore the responsibility of the state to restore the trust. And it can only be restored by the quick arrest of the perpetrators and their patrons and fast trials.

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