Bangladesh

People suffer due to closure of regular court functions

Minu Akhter, who has been serving in prison for three years instead of the convicted Kulsuma Akhter in a case filed over the killing of one Kohinur Begum in Chattogram in 2006, awaits a High Court ruling on her unjust circumstances.

An HC bench led by Justice Enayetur Rahim was scheduled to deliver its order on April 5 on the issue but its jurisdiction was reconstituted due to the sudden change when courts were closed.

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Following an upsurge of Covid-19 cases in late March, the Supreme Court administration issued a notification on April 4 by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain to run court functions on a very limited scale from April 5 to April 11.

Minu's lawyer Mohammad Shishir Manir said, "It is a complete disregard to the fundamental and legal rights of the citizens of the country. This decision is creating an obstruction to the administration of justice."

He added, "Complete court functions need to be opened virtually as soon as possible," he added.

Meanwhile, the HC also went on an annual vacation on May 7 and will reopen on May 23. Only some vacation benches of the HC will function virtually during this time.

Minu, who agreed to serve prison by proxy in exchange for money, is not Shishir's only client who is languishing in jail with a verdict hanging in the balance because of intermittent court functioning.

Suman Jamaddar, now 21, has been in a condemned cell of Barguna jail since 2016 in connection with an abduction and rape case. Barguna's Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain Tribunal convicted him, sentencing him to death in 2016.

Till April 4, an HC bench of Justice Krishna Debnath and Justice ASM Abdul Mobin was at the final stage of the hearing on Suman's appeal against the trial court's verdict and on the death reference of the case.

Further hearing of Suman's appeal and death reference and delivery of the verdict in the case have now become uncertain, his lawyer told The Daily Star.

Shishir said his client cannot get released from the death cell until the HC delivers its verdict on the case.

Even for those able to secure bail, it took lawyers weeks to get them released as the paperwork couldn't be processed because of closure of the various courts.

Md Sabbir Hossain from Rangamati's Atharakchara upazila, secured bail from the High Court on March 24 this year in a case filed under the Pornography Control Act, 2012 with Uttara West Police Station in Dhaka.

The bench of Justice Md Rezaul Haque and Justice Md Atoar Rahman said in the order that Sabbir Hossain has been granted ad-interim bail for a period of one year from the date of furnishing the bail bond, subject to the satisfaction of the Metropolitan Sessions Court, Dhaka.

But the despatch section of the HC could not send the copy of the HC order on time to the metropolitan court, which remained closed following the SC administration's notification.

And his lawyer could not submit the bail bond to the lower court till April 12 as the lower court functions were suspended till then, with virtual proceedings reopening on April 13.

On March 31 this year, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman granted ad-interim bail to an accused named Md Mamun from Dharmagarh in Thakurgaon, for one year in a case filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000.

But Mamun could not initially get released from jail as his lawyer could not furnish the bail bond right away before the Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain Tribunal-4 of Dhaka, the trial court concerned.

Sabbir and Mamun got released on bail on April 18 after their bail bonds were furnished, Shishir Manir told The Daily Star on May 8.

Shishir added all the benches of India's Supreme Court are running virtually despite the devastating Covid-19 second wave in Delhi and 16 virtual benches, six physical benches and four hybrid benches of the High Court in Mumbai are functioning although the city went into lockdown from April 4.

A group of SC lawyers under the banner of Sadharan Ainjibi Parishad (General Lawyers Council) have formed a human chain at the Supreme Court Bar Association office premises on different days since April 5 demanding that the chief justice form more virtual benches of the Appellate and High Court Divisions for quick disposal of cases and in the interest of lawyers and litigants.

SC Spokesman Md Saifur Rahman told The Daily Star that the chief justice had taken the decision to run court functions on a limited scale in order to save people's lives.

If any specific allegation is received that the despatch section of the HC does not send the orders' copies to lower courts, necessary action will be taken, he added.

COURT FUNCTION DURING EID HOLIDAYS

Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain has decided to operate necessary number of virtual courts -- at all tiers -- during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays so that people can move cases to get remedy from courts, said an SC press release issued on Sunday.

The functions of the SC's Appellate Division, its Chamber Court and High Court Division are operating virtually amid the government-imposed restrictions in order to continue rule of law and to protect the constitutional rights of people of the country.

It said the Appellate Division has disposed of 10,003 cases between July 13 last year and May 6 this year through virtual hearing.

Besides, more than 500 criminal petitions are being settled at the High Court Division and over 100 lawyers are attending the hearing virtually every working day, the press release said.

SC Spokesman Saifur, who issued the press release, said the subordinate courts across the country have disposed of bail petitions in total 58,605 criminal cases through virtual hearings and granted bail to 31,208 under-trial prisoners in 18 working days since April 12 to May 6 this year.

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