Rule of Law is one of the basic features of Bangladesh’s constitution which sets out in the aspiration section of the preamble of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and was also established in the Anwar Hossain Chowdhury v Bangladesh case. In rule of law, everyone is under the law, no matter what his position is. It simply means the government is based on law, not on people. The WJP (World Justice Project) Rule of Law Index 2021 measures countries’ rule of law performs among eight factors: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice. A fair trial is the prerequisite and also a key tool for ensuring criminal justice in respect of rule of law. But what is the status of Bangladesh in terms of rule of law and fair trial of people right now?
Different Aspects of Rule of Law
The principle of natural justice is one of the major components of fair trial which means no one shall be condemned unheard. However, people have witnessed some terrible cross-fire which is logically termed as a gunfight, shoot-out, encounter as well and mob killings which turn into the shape of extra-judicial killing. A valid question comes into mind that through so-called cross-fire and mob killing, are we trying to establish a rule of law in our country? Everyone has his right to life as well as the right to get a fair trial. Eleanor Roosevelt quotes that ‘justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.’ For that, a free and fair trial is a must, none can kill without getting a chance to place his words in front of the court.
Provisions regarding Rule of Law
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Poses in article 3 that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person. Article 5 asserts that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 9 talks that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile. Our constitution also includes these provisions to establish rule of law here. Articles 27, 31, 32, and 33, 35 of our constitution are denoting about citizen’s right that every citizen is equal before the law and get the equal Protect of law, citizens are entitled to enjoy the safeguards as to arrest and detention, protection of the law and treated under law and not deprived of life or personal liberty, elements of a fair trial in criminal prosecution respectively. Right to be brought before the court is one of them. Article 9 (3), (5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) pledge that every people have the right to be brought before the court, which is also mentioned in section 61 and 167 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. These provisions talk that life cannot be taken arbitrarily either without having a proper trial.
Rule of Law and Its Current Scenario in Bangladesh
However, the current scenario of Bangladesh is completely different from our thoughts. Just a week back two suspect drug dealers were killed at Ukhia and Teknaf at Cox’s Bazar in two separate gunfights with RAB (Rapid Action Battalion). In last year, the chairman of Union Parishad of Khulna was killed by RAB in a cross-fire. In July, a suspect murderer was killed by police in Chittagong. It is increasing in our society alarmingly. Pointing out the way to rid of the heinous crime from society, MP of Jatiya party, Mujibul Haque Chunnu first initiated the topic of cross-fire in January 2020. In addition, the death of major Sinha made us rethink about the existence of rule of law in Bangladesh. Tofail Ahmed, MP of Bhola added that not only for drug dealers but it should also apply in the incidents of rape. Sayed Nazibul Bashar, MP of Chattrogram, and some other MPs have given their support to this matter. When our policymakers can ask for crossfire to diminish the crime that is quietly opposed from the provisions of our constitution, how could we expect the existence of rule of law in our country?
Mob justice is one of the major tools to shaken down the position of rule of law in Bangladesh. It has first come to light in 2011, on 17 July when six students were killed by a mob beating at Savar near Amin bazar at Shab-e-barat’s night. Recently, a single mother, Taslima Begum Renu was killed on suspicion about kidnapping when she went to the primary school of Uttar Badda to know about the admission scheme for her daughter. As per Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights organization in Bangladesh, in 2019, 65 people died across Bangladesh in mob justice, and in 2020 the number is 35 and in 2021 till August, it is 23.
Odhikar, one of the human rights platforms in Bangladesh, made a survey report for extra-judicial killings and as per the report, in 2019, 391 people died over the country in extra-judicial killings, in 2020 the amount is 225 and up to March 2021, the amount is 34. As per the WJP index of 2020, Bangladesh has ranked 115th globally among 128 countries and in 2019 the rank was 112th among 126.
Considering all of these statistics and scenarios, we can assume that the position of rule of law is undergoing a grim situation. The reality is quietly different from our expectations as well as from the provisions of the constitution which were made to ensure the rule of law in Bangladesh.
Author(s) Name: Anamika Modok (East West University, Dhaka)
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