WJP Report 2021 and Bangladesh
The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law index report 2021 was published in October 15, 2021 in Washington, USA. Bangladesh has moved up a notch in a global ranking of countries where the rule of law prevails, to 124th out of 139 countries across the world and in 2020 Bangladesh was 115th among 128th countries. Its overall score in the index however declined to 0.40 from 0.41. Bangladesh's overall rule of law score decreased 2.8% in this year's Index. At 124th place out of 139 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, Bangladesh improved one position in global rank.
Bangladesh's score places it at 4 out of 6 countries in the South Asia region like in the year of 2020 and 25 out of 35 among lower-middle income countries. In the last year, 6 out of 6 countries declined in South Asia. Of those 6 countries, 5 had also declined in the previous year. [Press Release of WJP] Bangladesh's score is 0.31 in fundamental rights and 0.32 in criminal justice, 0.35 in absence of corruption, 0.37 in constraints on government powers, 0.38 in civil justice, 0.40 in regulatory enforcement, 0.42 in open government and 0.63 in order and security. In this Article, the Criminal Justice and Civil Justice will be addressed and analyzed in the light of the report 2021.
WJP Report 2021 and South Asia
Despite the improvement, Bangladesh remains just ahead of Afghanistan and Pakistan (with the global rankings of 134th and 130th respectively) in the South Asia. Nepal topped in this region with the global 70th position, which was followed by Sri Lanka and India with 76th and 79th positions respectively. Like the previous year, the top three global places for overall rule of law went to Denmark (score 0.90), Norway (0.90) and Finland (0.88) and Venezuela (score 0.27), Cambodia (0.32) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (0.35) this year too remained at the bottom of the WJP index.
Factors of Rule of Law Index
Performance is determined using 44 indicators across eight main 'rule of law' factors, each scored and ranked globally and regionally. The WJP Rule of Law Index is a report that measures the rule of law based on the experiences and perceptions of the general public and in-country legal practitioners and experts worldwide. [Dhaka Tribune, October 16, 2021] The index is based on eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice. These factors are made up of 44 sub-factors.
Rule of Law during the Pandemic
The 2021 Index is the first in this annual series to be issued since the declaration of the pandemic, and the findings show the hit certain dimensions of the rule of law took during the health crisis. Most notably, 94 percent of countries experienced a decline in the timeliness of administrative, civil, or criminal justice. This trend was most prevalent with respect to civil justice, which had in previous years been an area of modest improvement globally. The 2021 Index data also reflect how the pandemic has highlighted and reinforced persistent systemic discrimination. Sixty-seven percent of countries studied evidenced increased levels of discrimination during this period. [Article: New Data Highlight Growing Worldwide Rule of Law Crisis, published at justsecurity.org]
Over the past year, 82% of countries in the Index experienced a decline in at least one dimension of civic space (civic participation, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of assembly and association) and 94% of countries in the Index experienced increased delays in administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings.
Criminal Justice of Bangladesh in WJP Report
Criminal Justice is one of the basic factors of the report. According to WJP, "Factor 8 of the WJP Rule of Law Index evaluates a country's criminal justice system. An effective criminal justice system is a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the conventional mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offenses against society. An assessment of the delivery of criminal justice should take into consideration the entire system, including the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and prison officers."
The key points of Criminal Justice evaluation are 7 sub-points. Bangladesh is placed 85th in the effective criminal investigation system and 78th on the timely investigation in criminal cases. Its position is 72nd on the correctional (prison) system, 135th on impartial justice system, 118th on the criminal justice system as out of corruption, 123rd on the free of government influence and 137th on the following of due process of law and rights of the accused.
Civil Justice of Bangladesh in WJP Report
The WJP evaluates Civil Justice containing 7 factors of the WJP Rule of Law Index which measures whether ordinary people can resolve their grievances peacefully and effectively through the civil justice system. It measures whether civil justice systems are accessible and affordable as well as free of discrimination, corruption, and improper influence by public officials. It examines whether court proceedings are conducted without unreasonable delays and whether decisions are enforced effectively. It also measures the accessibility, impartiality, and effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
In Bangladesh Civil Justice evaluation part, comparatively in two factors, Bangladesh gets good position which are 'civil justice is free of improper government influence' (92nd) and 'alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are accessible, impartial and effective' (114th). We are in 136th out of 139th in the factor of 'civil justice is not subject to unreasonable delay'. These figures indicate our civil justice position in the world's judicial ranking. We should improve our justice delivery system, reform legal statutes, introduce digital judicial management and ensure speedy trial as well as execution of the judgments.
Present Scenario of Bangladesh Judiciary
It is pertinent to suffix here that according to the National Justice Audit Report of 2019, 67 per cent people opined that they have faith on existing judicial system. According to the national justice audit, only 13 per cent of people pursued formal justice methods in which 9 per cent goes to the courts whereas 4 per cent wants shelter to police, mostly due to the costs involved and the distance required to travel for getting easy, fair and cost effective justice. In most cases it took two to five years to settle a case for which the people had to visit courts for 20 to 25 times. It took more than Tk 25,000 to settle a case, said the audit report. [The daily Sun, September 13, 2019]
In Bangladesh, against around 100 Judges of the Supreme Court about almost 0.55 million pending cases and against almost 1,900 Judges for subordinate judiciary almost 3.4 million cases are to be heard and disposed of. In essence, the present number of Judges in Bangladesh is quite disproportionate to such huge number of cases. Besides, the nature of civil disputes, particularly the cases relating to claims of title over or partition of the immovable property, are so complicated that the existing system does not even allow a Judge to take any shortcut approach on those matters. The Law Commission of Bangladesh described in a research article in 2015 on backlog of cases in the court and recommended that there should be appointed more 3,000 Judges to reduce backlog of cases in the court.
Recent Performance in Judiciary during Pandemic
In the corona pandemic, the world justice process was hampered due to log down and other problems. Bangladesh judiciary has been conducting a huge work through virtual and actual system. The Government has taken initiatives to enact the necessary laws and provide logistics support to carry out the judicial works. Bangladesh has done well comparing other countries in this period which is nicely admitted in the WJP report 2021.
According to the Supreme Court Report of 2020 (recently published), in 2020 in the Appellate Division (AD), the filing of the cases was 6958 and disposed by the AD was 15350 and pending at the end of year 2020 was 15225 cases whereas in the year of 2019 it was 23617 pending cases. In High Court Division (HCD), in 2020 the total filing of the cases was 64013 and disposal was 34192 cases. At the end of 2020, the total pending cases were 5, 18,889 in HCD as per report of 2020 of SC. This statistic shows honourable AD and HCD have relentlessly been working to ensure justice having huge barriers and problems in the pandemic.
In the pandemic, the Sub-ordinate Judiciary had played a great role in disposing huge works on civil and criminal matters such as hearing on various applications, disposing cases, maintaining regular magistracy and other activities around the year.
In Bangladesh, we follow the adversarial legal system as well as very old legal statutes in disposing the civil and criminal justice. The Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) is framed and enacted in 1908 whereas the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act were enforced in 1898 and 1872 respectively. These are the vital and core laws dealing with both civil and criminal justice system. Moreover, our land management and disputes are so complicated and time consumed system. Almost 60% criminal cases of the country are arising from the land disputes which are basically civil disputes.
"Justice delayed is Justice denied" is the real proposition of justice system around the world. Fair and speedy trial is the fundamental rights. To improve in rule of law as well as justice delivery process in the world's competition as per report of WJP, we should come forward with a better change in our legal framework of judiciary in terms of legal reform, increasing of judges, improving logistics support, ensuring e-judiciary and speedy disposed of cases.
The writer is Senior Judicial Magistrate, Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Feni.
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