The High Court yesterday directed the government to put a stop to custodial deaths, saying the court will not tolerate such incidents. An HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik, and Justice Md Delwar Hossain sounded the warning during a public interest litigation hearing in connection with the May 11 death of Md Manik Mia in custody of Chittagong police. Manik was a security guard of Anjuman Market at Reazuddin Bazar in Chittagong; he was also an accused in a theft case.
“We are oath bound to protect the right to life of the people as per the constitution. As long as we are here, we will maintain zero tolerance for custodial deaths,” Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik, a senior judge on the bench, told lawyers and government law officers present in the courtroom.
The court directed the government through the attorney general’s office to be careful, so no person dies in law enforcers’ custody due to physical torture. It also directed ruling Awami League lawmaker Abdul Matin Khasru, and Additional Attorney General Murad Reza to convey its anxiety over Manik’s death to officials concerned of police and other government departments. The court issued the directives after a post mortem report stated that injury marks were found on Manik’s body.
During the hearing, Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) Commissioner M Muniruzzaman was standing before the bench in connection with a contempt of court ruling against him. The bench on May 23 issued the rule against him for not complying with its May 12 order that had asked him to appear before it to submit a report on the steps taken following Manik’s custodial death. The court had sought the report in response to a public interest litigation filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) in connection with the death. The CMP commissioner yesterday morning appeared before the court, and offered his unconditional apology for not appearing before it on May 23.
He told the court that his office suspended the police personnel responsible for the death. The court then dropped the contempt charge against Muniruzzaman. It also dropped the same charge against Sub-inspector Yunus Mia of Kotwali police station of Chittagong, since he had already been suspended, and a murder case had been filed against him in connection with Manik’s death. The bench fixed July 29 for further order in the case.
Advocate Abdul Matin Khasru argued for Muniruzzman, while Additional Attorney General Murad Reza, and Deputy Attorney General Nazrul Islam Talukder represented the government, and Advocate Manzill Murshid appeared for HRPB. Meanwhile, another HC bench yesterday rejected a bail petition filed by four police personnel accused in another death in custody of Gaibandha police in 2006.
The bench of Justice Md Shamsul Huda, and Justice Abu Bakar Siddiquee directed the accused law enforcers to surrender before the Sessions Judge’s Court in Gaibandha within eight weeks from yesterday. The bench also asked the government not to harass or arrest the accused during the period.
The accused are — the then officer-in-charge (OC) of Gaibandha police station Md Nurul Alam who is now posted at Osmani Nagar in Sylhet; then sub-inspector of Gaibandha police Fahima Haider who is now stationed at Lalmonirhat; and Gaibandha police constables Dulal Chandra Sarker and Mizanur Rahman. The accused yesterday appeared before the bench for anticipatory bail.
Deputy Attorney General Md Salim told The Daily Star that Sajidur Rahman Sajid, a medical representative of Gaibandha, died in police custody there on May 21, 2006. The medical report stated that Sajid died of physical torture, but Md Nurul Alam filed an unnatural death case, suppressing facts. Later that year, Aminul Islam, convener of Gaibandha Nagorik Committee, filed a murder case with a Judicial Magistrate’s Court of the district, implicating the four police personnel, Salim said.
Barrister Rokan Uddin Mahmud represented the defendants.