The High Court on Monday cleared five death row convicts of all charges in a case filed over gang-rape of a teenage girl 18 years ago.
The bench of Justice SM Emdadul Hoque and Justice Bhishmadev Chakraborty came up with the verdict after hearing the appeals of the accused and the death reference of the case.
The convicted accused are Shamim, Vikon Rongdi, Tikon Rongdi, Tapash Shema and Rup Miah of Netrokona's Purbadhala upazila. Among them, Rup Miah is absconding.
Also read: 5 to die in Tangail gang-rape case
Deputy Attorney General Md Mozammal Haque Rana represented the state while lawyers Fazlul Hoque Khan Farid, AM Mahbub Uddin and a few others stood for the accused.
The court dropped the charges against the accused as the allegations were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s lawyers said.
Fazlul Hoque said, “There was no evidence of rape in the medical report and the statements made by the victim and witnesses were inconsistent.”
Asked if the government will move an appeal against the verdict, Deputy Attorney General Mozammal Haque said, “I will send a note to the Attorney General. If he decides on lodging an appeal, it will be done.”
Also read: 5 to die in Tangail gang-rape case
According to the case statement, the teenager was repeatedly gang-raped – on July 20, 2002 – in Netrokona while she was on her way to a relative’s house.
The girl, who was 15-year-old at that time, filed a case with Purbadhala Police Station the next day.
On November 8 that same year, the police filed a chargesheet.
Almost 13 years later, in February 2015, the district Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal sentenced the five accused to death in connection with the case and imposed a fine of Tk25,000 on each. Today's judgement must raise questions over how the lower court could arrive at such a flawed verdict. The full judgement, once it is delivered, can be expected to shed light on whether the reasons were systemic or specific to the case.
The High Court on Monday ordered the authorities concerned to shut down all illegal brick kilns in Chattogram within a week to prevent pollution.
It also ordered them to submit a list to the court within 30 days of those authorized brick kilns which are using soil of hills and arable land for making bricks and using wood as fuel in the kilns.
The court also issued a rule seeking explanation as to why the inaction of the government in shutting down illegal brick kilns would not be declared illegal.
Secretary to the Environment Ministry, deputy commissioner of Chattogram and other concerned have been asked to respond to the rule within four weeks.
The HC bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Mohiuddin Shamim came up with the order and rule following a writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB). Advocate Manzil Murshid stood for the writ petitioner.
Advocate Manzil Murshid said several hundred illegal brick kilns have been operating in Lohagara upazila and other areas, leading to environmental damage. But the authorities concerned are not taking necessary action to stop the illegal activities, he added.
A research report by the DoE and the World Bank published in March last year on the sources of air pollution in Bangladesh identified three main sources –brick kilns, fumes of vehicles and dust from construction sites.
“Brick kilns are responsible for 58 percent air pollution in the capital. Plans have been taken to shut [traditional] kilns currently in operation. We’re working to produce eco-friendly bricks,” Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin had told UNB.
He said the government plans to stop burning bricks at kilns by 2025 and use block bricks to construct buildings under government projects.
Kiln owners have already been directed to produce 10 percent block bricks, the minister said, adding that it will be increased to 100 percent over time and the use of block bricks will gradually be made mandatory in private projects, too.
In a series of directives in January, the High Court had asked DoE to shut down illegal brick kilns within two months.
The DoE has been conducting drives against the illegal brick kilns for months now and slapping fines.
Also read: 5 brick kilns fined Tk8 lakh in Sylhet
Expired medicines worth Tk 30 crore have been destroyed in the last 11 months through mobile court drives from January to October this year.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) authorities submitted a report in this regard before the High Court bench of Justice Md Khasruzzaman and Justice Md Mahmud Hassan Talukder on Monday.
Tk 7.26 crore was realised in fine during the period, according to the report.
Besides, a total of 1437 cases were filed during the period.
Deputy Attorney General ABM Abdullah Al Mahmud Bashar represented the state.
The HC asked the DGDA to submit the final report of the drives against expired and adulterated drugs within the next three months, said ABM Abdullah.
The High Court on June 18, 2019 asked the authorities concerned to take necessary steps to remove expired medicines from pharmacy shelves across the country and destroy those within 30 days.
The court also asked the relevant authorities to take action against those involved in preserving and selling expired medicines and submit a progress report in this regard.
On June 10, last year, Manjur Mohammad Shahrier, director general of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection's (DNCRP), said 93 percent pharmacies in the capital kept date-expired drugs. The report was published in different newspapers the following day.
Read Also: Expired medicines recovered from septic tank
Supreme Court lawyer Mahfuzur Rahman Milon, on behalf of Justice Watch Foundation, filed a writ petition with the High Court after attaching the reports published in national dailies on June 17 of that year.
The HC also issued a rule asking the government to explain as to why the ineffectiveness of the defendant should not be declared illegal.
Secretaries to the Home Ministry, Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Law Ministry, Commerce Ministry, Industries Ministry, director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), director general of Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) and director general of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection's (DNCRP), its deputy director, IGP, president of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI) and its general secretary have been made respondents to the rule.
According to the report published in daily newspapers on June 10, 2019, Manjur Mohammad Shahrier, director general of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection's (DNCRP), said 93 percent pharmacies in Dhaka keep date-expired medicines.
He made the remarks while speaking at a programme at Khamarbari arranged by Bangladesh Supermarket Owners Association marking ‘World Food Safety Day’.
A Chattogram tribunal on Monday sentenced eight people to death for killing a nine-year-old girl after rape in 2018.
Chattogram Women and Child Repression Prevention Tribunal-4 Judge Jamiul Haidar handed down the verdict.
The tribunal also fined the convicts Tk one lakh each.
The condemned convicts are- Belal Hossain alias Bijoy, Rabiul Islam alias Rubel, Hasibul Islam alias Liton, Aksan Mia alias Hasan, Mohammad Sujon, Meheraj alias Tutul, Manirul Islam Manu and Shahadat Hossain Soikat. Of them, Shahadat was tried in absentia.
According to the prosecution, the convicts picked up Meem, daughter of Jamal Uddin of Akbar Shah area, and took her to a building named Mamtaz Mahal in the area on January 21, 2018.
Later, they raped the girl and strangled her to death.
Read Also: 5 to die in Tangail gang-rape case
Local people spotted the body of Meem near the stairs of a six-storey building on the same day.
Police arrested seven people after victim's mother Rabeya Begum filed a case with Akbar Shah Police Station.
In 2019, police submitted chargesheet against them.
During investigation, police came to know that the convicts killed the girl in a planned way centering an enmity with her mother.
Recent change to rape law
The government has recently cleared the way for delivering highest punishment awarding capital punishment in cases filed over rape.
The much-talked-about 'Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020' was passed in Parliament on November 17 for ensuring death penalty as the highest punishment for the heinous crime of rape.
The government came up with the move after the rape incident at MC college and another in Noakhali fuelled countrywide protests against sexual violence against women.
A Rajshahi court on Sunday sentenced six people of the same family to life term imprisonment for killing a man over land dispute in 2005.
The convicts are Dulal Uddin, his wife Minara Khatun, Md Mithu, Md Tota, Ranju alias Md Bulbul. All of them are from the same family.
Special Judges Court Judge Ismat Ara delivered the verdict in the afternoon while the convicts were present on the dock.
Public Prosecutor Shafikul Islam said Mithu and Tota were also fined Tk 50,000 each and other convicts were fined Tk 10,000.
According to the case statement, on July 19, 2005, the convicts hacked the victim Saidar Rahman, 30, to death over the land dispute.
Also read: 3 get life term for murder in Kushtia
Later, victim’s mother filed a case over the matter.