Tribunals flout 180-day rule

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Pns: Although the law that stipulates that cases under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act have to be disposed of within 180 days, it is hardly followed, resulting in the harassment of litigants and a growing number of pending cases across the country.

According to sources in the law ministry and the Supreme Court, 158,869 cases were pending in the women and children repression prevention tribunals across the country till March 31, 2017.

A top SC official said that some of the cases are more then 10 to 12 years old. And the number of cases is increasing by the day, he added.

The Act stipulates that the cases under it must be disposed of within 180 days of their filing. According to Section 31 (A) of the Act, the tribunal must submit a report to the SC within 30 days of the expiry of the deadline, explaining the reason for the delay.

The Act also needs the tribunal to send a copy of the report to the government. It says that the authorities should take action against those responsible for the delay. However, the provision for explanation to the SC for the delay is not being followed either. Talking to this correspondent, many lawyers said the 180-day provision should be annulled.

SC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan claimed that the 180-day period is not mandatory. “I have seen no instance of an explanation being submitted (to the SC) in the case of failure to comply with the provision,” he said.

Lawyer Badiul Islam Tapadar, who has dealt with several such cases, had said on an earlier occasion: “Most of the cases filed under Sections 7 and 11—assault and murder for dowry—are false. So, the judges are not as attentive as they should be while hearing the cases. This (attitude) has led to the rise in the number of pending cases.”

But the punishment of the plaintiffs of such false cases is rare, even though there is a provision for punitive action against them, he noted.

Advocate Fawzia Karim Firoze, the president of the Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA), said women are harassed in many ways in the country because the laws are not implemented properly.

“If the court settles such cases within the stipulated time and gives exemplary punishment to the convicts, the number of these offences will go down,” she noted.

However, she admitted that most cases filed under Sections 7 and 11 are false.

The government enacted the Women and Children Repression (Special Provision) Act in 1995 to take tough action against crimes against women and children. In 2000, the act was replaced by the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, which was amended into the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amended) Act in 2003.

On May 13 this year, the High Court (HC) directed the SC registrar general to form a cell to monitor whether the trials of the cases under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000 were being completed within 180 days.

The cell is supposed to report to the SC and the government so that appropriate action can be taken against the judges, public prosecutors and investigating officers who fail to explain why the cases were not disposed of on time.

The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice JBM Hassan delivered the short verdict on December 5 last year after hearing a suo motu case on the issue.

Many lawyers said that if the authorities concerned follow the HC order, the cases filed under the women and children repression tribunals might be disposed of within the stipulated time. They suggested that the pending cases should be disposed of on a priority basis.

Otherwise, the number of cases will only pile up, they noted.

PNS/Tamanna Khan

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