Nusrat Jahan Rafi is now regarded as a symbol of justice, protest and dignity of women. The trial of Nusrat Jahan Rafi Case got top priority as fast track trial in Bangladesh. The historic trial was conducted taking only 61 working days for framing charge, recording 87 witnesses out of 92 charge sheeted witnesses, taking defense evidence and long time argument of both parties. The trial was proceeded consecutively in every day. This case is the first which was concluded and declared judgment in the shortest time complying all formalities according to law in Bangladesh. Now the demand for fast track trial in Bangladesh is a crying right for justice and the people want speedy justice in all gruesome crimes and murders.
In our criminal justice system, fair and speedy trial is constitutional fundamental right which is recognized in the Article 35(3) of the Constitution of Bangladesh. We have almost 31 lac cases in the subordinate judiciary and almost 18 lac criminal cases out of them with 1600 judges and magistrates in the courts. Moreover almost 130,000 Women & Children Repression Prevention Cases and almost 1500 Death Reference Cases are pending in the Women & Children Repression Prevention Tribunals and High Court Division respectively. Persisting this figure of cases, to ensure speedy trial and punishment is a great issue and challenge to judicial system.
Recently our judiciary has set some examples that judiciary is ready to dispose of cases in the shortest possible time. Supreme Court and Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs have taken some effective initiatives to ensure quick trial and ensure justice. Newly 41 Women & Children Repression Prevention Tribunals & two Anti-Terrorism Tribunals were set up in the country last year. In addition, the Government has taken action to set up some other tribunals across the country such as Cyber Crime Tribunals, Anti-Terrorism Tribunals etc. In comparison of the existing courts, tribunals, filing of cases and ongoing crimes, to ensure fair and speedy trial is very challenging decision keeping existing system, courts, law and facilities. The aid of all quarters in relation with justice is a core remedial approach for justice in a fair, speedy and acceptable manner.
Trial is the basic part of a case to ensure the justice between victim and accused. Evidence is the life of trial and witness is the pillar of judgment of a case to sustain the justice. There is a saying, it must be seen that Justice has been done. In Bangladesh, there is no law for the protection of witness and no stringent detail law for the management of witness. In the Evidence Act 1872 which is core law for evaluation of evidence, there is no clear provision to accept digital, audio and visual evidence.
Our prosecution who represents the state in the criminal cases is not properly accountable to the authority. Most of the cruel murders and heinous crimes got clemency for the defect of evidence and witnesses in the courts. Even most of the old cases are pending for the production of witnesses in the courts which is exclusively the responsibility of the prosecution and police. For fair trial, a good investigation is a prime concern. In the case of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, the investigating agency PBI and the concern Cognizance Magistracy were very vibrant to ensure the proper investigation and collection of evidences. In addition, all Government agencies concern to the Court are also active and effectively participated in the trial.
Our subordinate judiciary has some glorified and eventual works on some sensational cases such as BDR mutiny case, seven murder case of Narayonganj, Khadija case of Sylhet, Rajon murder case of Sylhet, Rakib murder case of Khulna, Rupa gang rape case of Tangail, Akram murder case of Feni and obviously Nusrat Jahan Rafi case of Feni. Judiciary sets an example that this institution can perform well and deliver speedy and fair justice when all concerns aid effectively according to the law.
To introduce speedy and fast track trial, the Government of Bangladesh like India enacted the Speedy Trial (Bichar) Tribunal Act 2002 and set up some tribunals across the country. In these tribunals, the cases are transferred through official gazette, monitored by the ministry time to time and the tribunal follows the law strictly. The Police and Prosecution are aware about their responsibility to the tribunal. For such action, those cases are disposed of speedy as fast track trial court.
In some special Acts where the law sets time frame for trial but, for huge backlog, inactive participation of prosecution and insufficient facilities, the concern courts or tribunals do not complete the trial within that stipulated time. Of late honorable High Court Division (HCD) has intervened in some cases and provided guidelines to produce witness, set up monitoring committee and conclude trial to the frame work time. The HCD also expressed to enact the witness protection law and witness management provision in the court.
To establish rule of law and remove culture of impunity, a fast track trial and fair justice system are integral part of justice towards people. For such effective action, the Government should set up new courts and tribunals as per the ratio of the cases. Moreover professional and skilled investigating agency, accountable prosecution, witness management and protection, monitoring of the cases are also vital and core parts of the speedy trial. A Judge only through his efforts can’t achieve this long desired speedy justice.
Writer is a member of Bangladesh Judicial Service and currently working as Senior Judicial Magistrate in Feni.