Thousands of piled up rape cases
According to a report submitted by the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to the High Court, a staggering number of 26,695 rape cases have been filed across the country in the past five years. Of the cases, 4,331 were filed in 2016, 4,683 in 2017, 4,695 in 2018, 6,766 in 2019 and 6,220 were lodged till October 2020.
The question, however, trials of how many of these colossal number of cases have ended, and how many are pending?
According to section 20 of the Act, Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal must finish trial of the cases filed under this law within 180 days of framing charges. Additionally , section 31(ka) of the law states if the trial of a case is not finished on time, the tribunal judge, public prosecutor and police officer concerned have to submit separate reports to the SC and the government, mentioning causes for the delay, and then the authorities concerned should take necessary steps.
The reality: For nearly all rape survivors in Bangladesh, the December 2016 High Court ruling that rape cases must be concluded within a maximum of 180 days is still a pipe dream. Even some of the highly publicized cases in the past two years have not seen any conviction. Moreover, though the law instructs trial proceedings of a rape case to be completed within 180 days, there aren't any visible legal ramifications when the law isn't followed accordingly. As a result, many are taking advantage of this loophole.
On the topic of resolving these over 26, 000 cases, our reading is fairly simple. It is not possible to expedite the process without more courts and more judges. Each tribunal has between 1,500-2,000 such cases at any given time. A judge can only hear about a hundred cases a month. Make it such that a judge has only 500 cases or less.
We recall, barely four months ago a GIZ - run project collected data of pending cases from 2015-2018, and made individual projections for each tribunal for years 2019 to 2022. According to their projections, 42 percent of the cases in 2020 were pending cases, with similar numbers projected for 2021 and 2022.
However, there are more than enough data, statistics and explanations available on the growing number of rape cases in Bangladesh today - the million dollar question now - how the government plans to expedite these thousands of cases based on the IGP's latest report sent to the High Court?