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HC: Failure to adequately punish culprits behind increasing number of rape incidents

  • Published at 11:31 pm August 20th, 2019
High Court-HC-court
File photo of the High Court Dhaka Tribune

The observations were published by the HC bench of Justices M Enayetur Rahim and Md Mostafizur Rahman on Tuesday

Incidents of rape are increasing in the country due to the failure to provide exemplary punishment to culprits in quick time, according to the High Court (HC).

“Incidents of rape, especially child rape and murder after rape have increased in the country in recent times. The responsibility of failing to ensure justice for victims and exemplary punishment for offenders lies primarily with the state. In this case, the judiciary is also not above accountability,” the court observed.

The observations were published by the HC bench of Justices M Enayetur Rahim and Md Mostafizur Rahman on Tuesday, in a written order on a bail petition in two rape cases where the court rejected the bail of two accused on July 18.

In the order, the court suggested that the government enact a law to protect witnesses as soon as possible.

“Our experience is that the perpetrators of rape cases are cunning and out of control. They use various tactics, including putting pressure on family members of victims, influence, fear and temptation to stop witnesses from testifying in court,” the court said, adding that there was no alternative to enacting a Witness Protection Act in such a situation.

The court also expressed annoyance with delays in the trial of cases filed for rape under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000. 

According to the court, their experience in dealing with bail petitions in such cases showed that a huge number of cases are piling up at Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals across the country, with many of them four to five years old.

The tribunals are fixing hearing dates for the cases with gaps of two to five months, as charge framing is being delayed and witnesses do not attend hearing dates without valid reasons.  

The High Court said despite the presence of directives to trial courts to complete trials within 180 days of getting case dockets and to hold hearings continuously till the proceedings are complete, the directives are not followed accordingly except in a nominal number of cases.

Although the tribunal and public prosecutor have obligations to inform the Supreme Court and government in written form the reasons for delays, this is not happening due to absence of coordination, leading to a lack of visible accountability.

At least 791 women were raped across the country from January to July this year, including 184 gang rapes, according to rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra.

Among the total women raped, 68 were under six years old, 132 were aged 7-12, and 123 were aged 13-18 years. In addition, 46 were murdered after rape, one was murdered after attempted rape, seven committed suicide because of rape, and two due to attempted to rape.

Furthermore, six of the rape and attempted rape incidents involved police.

On July 18, the court rejected appeals filed by accused Md Rahel alias Rayhan of Bogura and Sekandar Ali of Dhaka, seeking bail in two separate cases filed over the rape of two children in March and June, respectively, last year.

Six directives to accelerate trials of cases filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000

1.    Take effective measures to complete trials of the cases filed for rape and murder after rape within 180 days maximum

2.    Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal judges must hold continuous hearing of a case on every working day until the end of trial

3.    A monitoring committee must be formed in every district, to ensure presence of witnesses at court during hearings and their security. The committee will submit reports to the SC, Home and Law Ministries every month

4.    Monitoring committees will be accountable if the state fails to produce witnesses before the court on scheduled hearing dates without logical reasons

5.    The committee will monitor and ensure summons are sent to witnesses in the fastest possible time

6.    Tribunals will recommend departmental action against official witnesses if they fail to appear before the court on scheduled dates without providing satisfactory reasons, and may order a halt to salary if necessary