More than 2,000 prisoners in condemn cells
I mentioned in the article about Jahlam, a jute mill worker from Tangail, who was imprisoned for 13 years without trial. Many such ignorant and innocent people are still in jail without trial. And their families and relatives are living in extreme misery and sorrow. Newspaper headlines often report that many have been jailed for false accusations or wrong names, and have been detained year after year. Such incidents are not new in Bangladesh.
However, today in this article I am highlighting the convicts who have been sentenced to death. These accused are living in a condemn cell in a very poor condition. On the other hand the death penalty case (Death Reference) has been awaiting disposal for years. In doing so, an accused waits year after year for his final outcome. According to prison officials, the death reference hangs year after year due to delays in creating the paper book.
The accused, who had been in the condemn cell for a long time, became mentally ill. They will be able to better describe the life of a death row inmate. It is learned that a letter was sent from the Home Ministry requesting the Law Ministry to take necessary steps for speedy disposal of these cases in the High Court.
In this regard, the home minister said a few days ago, 'We have requested the Ministry of Law to take necessary steps for the disposal of the ongoing death reference and appeal case in the High Court. On the other hand, the law minister said in an interview to a national daily newspaper, "We are taking steps to settle these cases quickly. 3 prison guards of a condemn cell accused have to do shifting duty. In this, the jail authorities have to face problems.
It is often reported in the media that a convict sentenced to death in a lower court is sentenced to life imprisonment by a high court, absolutely acquitted again. For example, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has recently acquitted Saheb Ali Fakir of Mollarhat Upazila of Bagerhat, who was sentenced to death for murdering his wife. Saheb Ali was in the condemn cell for 10 years. It is also seen that in one case, more than one accused was sentenced to death, after which one or more accused were upheld and the rest were acquitted.
Besides, there is the issue of giving false charge sheet. Many have been imprisoned for years on false charges. The number of cases is increasing due to the deterioration of law and order in the country, as well as the complexity of cases. The number of death reference cases continues to rise, and defendants sentenced to death year after year are confined to condemn cells. The lower court is now hearing the appeals of the convicts sentenced to death in the year 2015-16. The death sentences being handed down in the lower courts will be heard in 2026. At present, there are more than 15,000 death row inmates in 67 jails of the country, according to Department of Prisons.
And there are more than 2,000 accused in the condemn cell. According to the High Court, a Death Reference Bench of the High Court deals with 35 to 40 cases a year. It is noteworthy that a person has to stay in condemn cell for 16 to 18 years or more until a case is settled. The regular benches of the High Court have not been able to resolve 1,570 cases in different periods.
The reason for this is the negligence and irresponsibility of all the concerned officers and employees. According to sources, the case is currently pending in the High Court with 249 death sentences below 6 months, 117 death sentences ranging from 6 months to 1 year. 580 death sentences ranging from 1 year to 3 years, 463 death sentences ranging from 3 years to 6 years, 99 death sentences ranging from 6 years to 8 years, 129 death sentences ranging from 8 years to 10 years, 51 death sentence ranging from 10 years to 12 years, 26 death sentences ranging from 12 years to 15 years, 13 death sentences above 15 years and incomplete information 23 death sentences.
There are some death penalty cases pending in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court which are not being addressed. There are 12 such cases pending in the Supreme Court in less than 6 months, 13 cases from 6 months to 1 year, 49 cases from 1 year to 3 years, 33 cases from 3 years to 6 years, 27 cases from 6 years to 8 years, 10 cases from 8 years to 10 years, 51cases from 10 years to 12 years, 33 cases from 12 years to 15 years and 5 death penalty cases above 15 years awaiting disposal.
I think it is necessary for the government and the concerned ministry to take the initiative to settle these cases as soon as possible.
Dr S M Jahangir Alam, Freedom
Fighter, Ex-Tax Commissioner &
Director: Bangladesh Satellite