Abuse of Power by Bangladeshi Police and Legal Implications

Section 103 of the CrPC 1898 requires that the (police) search be made in presence of a witness. The (police) officer about to make the search shall call upon two or more respectable inhabitants of the locality. The search shall be made in their presence and a list of all things seized in the course of such search shall be prepared by the officer and shall be signed by the witnesses.

Introduction

There is no doubt that some members of the Bangladesh Police are multi-talented. Apart from catching criminals, they have a keen expertise in magic. In the name of search, they demonstrate their skills by putting packets of yaba tablets in the pockets of their suspects. Moreover, for ‘demonstrating’ such public display, these magicians pick people of all classes, even if they are not willing to participate.

Reports of the police allegedly planting yaba pills in the pockets of the innocent people are on the rise. Constables and even sub-inspectors have been reported to harass innocent pedestrians on false allegations of carrying yaba tablets and fearing social humiliation, they pay a heavy amount to dismiss the case for good.

This method has become a common phenomenon in Bangladesh in recent times. It is definitely a form of police brutality and a sheer abuse of power. It raises concerns regarding the human rights situation in our country. An individual thus falls into the trap laid down by some mischievous persons in power. They do all the work of putting things here and there and as the job gets done, a final move is initiated by the authoritative officer.

Recounting similar incidents of the past

Such practices have been rampant particularly in metropolitan areas. This is due to the recent rise in smuggled yaba tablets entering into the country. More than 10 cases of false allegations have been reported in 2016.  Most recently, on 25th April 2018, a case was filed by the police against a young man for carrying yaba pills in Chittagong.

In a dramatic turn of events, a counter case was filed by the accused’s mother against seven police officers, claiming that it was a set up. According to Meherunessa, her son Mehedi Hasan was picked up from the street by the police and the police demanded money worth BDT three lacs. “At his refusal, the police put 40 yaba tablets in his pocket and charged him for carrying them”, claimed by Meherunnessa.

Such an instance however, is not new.  Reports of similar occurrences from the leading dailies are mentioned below.

On the 31st January 2016, a female student was sexually harassed and alleged to carry 200 yaba pills. This was after she was brought down from her rickshaw by the sub-inspector of Mohammadpur area and taken to a shop in the name of search. According to the woman, the policemen searched her bag for an hour and asked her to take off her jacket with indecent language. The SI was later suspended.[1] 

In February of the same year, a Barisal police official was suspended for extortion and harassing two businessmen. The sub-inspector forcefully took the businessmen to a hotel in Natun Bazar bus terminal area and demanded Tk 50,000 from them, according to a complaint by the businessmen. Later, the SI put Yaba tablets inside one of their pockets and threatened to arrest them if they do not give him the sum of money, the businessmen alleged.[2]

In late October of 2016, a sub-inspector of Chowgacha Police Station kept yaba pills via a source at a store owned by Mr. Rabon Kumar. The pills were found by the SI after the source came out. After other traders in the market stood up for Rabon, the SI and his source fled the scene.[3]

On December 2016, two Chittagong Metropolitan Police constables were suspended for deliberately putting yaba pills in a journalist’s pocket. Mr. Mostafa was brought down from his bus and taken to the police box. He alleged that the constable tried to trap him when he found nothing after searching his pocket. [4]

This year (2018), three incidents of similar pattern took place in Jessore. On 11th June, an SI got into trouble as he tried to put a packet of opium into a young man’s pocket in Baily Road area. On 15th June, an SI of the Kotwali Police Station of Benapole was barred for trying to make a college teacher an accused in a drug peddling case. A source of the SI tried to arrest the teacher after inserting some yaba pills into his pocket, triggering chaos.[5] Two days after this incident, a police constable of Jessore faced mob beating for allegedly putting yaba in the pocket of a businessman named Pikul. In the way of conversation, the constable tried to put 3-4 pieces of yaba tablets wrapped in a polythene packet into Pikul’s pocket. Upon Pikul’s screaming, a mob gathered and beat the police constable as they found yaba tablets in his hands.[6]

Incidents like these are rampant in Dhaka city. On June 27, 2018, a journalist named Ashik was stopped by patrol police and put on a police van. He was beaten and told that he would be set free if he paid Tk. 100,000/-. After the journalist said that he could only pay Tk. 5,000, the police charged him with possession of yaba, according to a report of bdnews24.com.[7]

What does the law say and what can be done?

It can be observed that in almost all of these reported incidents, the stop and search took place away from the public, behind police vans or dark alleys. However. Rule 280 (a) of the Police Regulations of Bengal (PRB), 1943 requires that searches be made in such a way that the eyewitnesses to the whole search must be able to see clearly where each article is found. They should sign the search list afterwards, i.e. the B.P. Form No. 44.

Clause (h) of Rule 280 states that ’Care should be taken that the witnesses are, so far as possible, unconnected with any of the parties concerned or with the police, so that they may be regarded as quite independent.’ However, the witnesses in real life are the other policemen who remain present at the scene. The PRB strongly recommends that the searches be made with regard to the law contained in Chapter VII and sections 102, 103, 163 and 166 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1898.

Section 103 of the CrPC 1898 requires that the search be made in presence of a witness. The officer about to make the search shall call upon two or more respectable inhabitants of the locality. The search shall be made in their presence and a list of all things seized in the course of such search shall be prepared by the officer and shall be signed by the witnesses.

Once a victim is picked up, it is his family that suffers the most. Usually, such policemen threaten to charge a liability under section 19 of the Narcotics Act, 1990, concerning the victim unless he/she gives him bribe. The policemen thus induces the victim’s family to pay the sum. Therefore, the families resort to paying huge amount of cashes to get their beloved ones released.

It is to be noted that section 163 (1) of the CrPC states that no police officer shall offer or make any such inducement or threat as mentioned in section 24 of the Evidence Act, 1872. Section 24 of the said Act states that a confession of an accused person shall be irrelevant if it was made by inducement or threat.

This also attracts the offence of extortion defined in section 383 of the Penal Code, 1860. This section states that whoever puts another person in fear and dishonestly induces to handover property or valuable security, commits extortion.  Section 384 of the Penal Code states that whoever commits extortion shall be punished with an imprisonment of three years of either description or fine, or both.

Since the seizure list contains the items recovered and the pouches of yaba are exhibited in the court, victims face immediate imprisonment.  However, section 196 of the Penal Code, 1860 states, ‘Whoever corruptly uses or attempts to use as true or genuine evidence, any evidence which he knows to be false or fabricated, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave or fabricated false evidence.’

As mentioned before, the B.P. Form No. 44 or the seizure list is mostly signed by the policemen. So, there is no way for the truth to be unearthed. This creates a possibility of falsifying the report to imprison the victim. In this regard, section 219 of the Penal Code, 1860 states, ‘Whoever, being a public servant, corruptly or maliciously makes or pronounces in any stage of a judicial proceeding, any report, order, verdict, or decision which he knows to be contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both’.

Knowing one’s rights and acting upon it can save one’s reputation and time. If one is truly innocent and wants to establish that the allegation made was false, one can claim it under the Penal Code. Section 211 of the Penal Code, 1860 talks about false charge of offence made with intent to injure.

This section states, ‘Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.’

Conclusion

There is a slogan popular among us – ‘the police are friends of the citizens’ but is the harassment of an innocent citizen a friendly attitude? Their role is to protect the law; not to defy it. They should leave the magic tricks to the ones who genuinely know how to do so. It cannot be denied that the Bangladesh Police, over the years have contributed effectively in minimizing crimes. Therefore, the entire police force does not deserve to be vicariously blamed for the actions of a few. The trust must not be broken. The black sheep must be identified and be brought to book for giving other policemen a bad name.

Footnotes:

[1] The Independent (2016), ‘Adabor Police SI harassed female student’ [published on 11th February 2016, available on http://www.theindependentbd.com/arcprint/details/33604/2016-02-11]

[2] The Daily Star (2016), ‘Barisal City Cop suspended for extortion’ [published on 3rd February 2016, available on http://www.thedailystar.net/country/barisal-city-cop-suspended-‘extortion’-211861]

[3] Dhaka Tribune {2016), ‘Police SI lays yaba trap but flees after mob beating’ [published on 26th Oct. 2016, available on http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/10/27/police-si-lays-yaba-trap-flees-mob-beating/]

[4] Daily Sun newspaper (2016), ‘Two Cops closed for harassing journalist’, [published on 7th Dec. 2016, available on http://www.daily-sun.com/arcprint/details/190053/Two-cops-closed-for-harassingjournalist/2016-12-07]

[5] Ntv Online (2017) ‘Cops closed for putting Yaba pills into teacher’s pocket’ [published on 16th June 2017, available on http://en.ntvbd.com/bangladesh/59543/Cops-closed-for-putting-Yaba-pills-into-teacher’s-pocket]

[6] Bangla News 24 (2017) ‘Police Constable lynched in Jessore’ [published on 18th June, available on http://www.banglanews24.com/english/national/article/61758/Police-constable-lynched-in-Jessore]

[7] bdnews24.com (2017), ‘Journalists demonstrate over photojournalist’s arrest for yaba possession’ [published on 8th July 2017, available on https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/07/08/journalists-demonstrate-over-photojournalists-arrest-for-yaba-possession]

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