Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday (Apr 28) asked authorities concerned to dispose the cases involving rapes and arson causing deaths to expose the culprits to stern punitive actions in soonest possible time.
“Now, it is being seen that the rape, murder, arson attack, and killing people by setting fire are going on due to social degradation,” she said while opening the National Legal Aid Services Day, 2019 at a hotel in Dhaka, local media reported.
The premier asked the authorities concerned to take immediate measures for speedy trial of the cases and ensure tougher punishment to the people involved in the misdeeds as the country as well as the nation want to get relief of the social menace.
She issued directives against the backdrop of recently killing a Feni Madrasha student Nusrat Jahan Rafi by setting her on fire and multiple incidents of rape, murder, and arson attacks across the country.
The PM asked the law ministry to take appropriate actions in disposing of the long pending cases as many people are currently languishing in jails without knowing their faults and reasons to stay in the prison, saying, “They even don’t know how to get legal aid services.”
She said her government wants each of the people get justice and asked the authorities concerned to take measures to this end.
Referring to her own past experience, the premier said: “I don’t want anyone like us to cry without getting justice”, adding that “The then government had passed indemnity ordinance as we could not want justice for killing my father, mother and brothers (on Aug 15 in 1975).”
“I even couldn’t file a case over the matter,” she said.
After assuming office in 1996, the Bangladesh Awami League annulled the ordinance and filed the assassination case of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she mentioned.
“Despite being demand of trial of the case in the special tribunal, I sent it to the ordinary court for its trial as we wanted to get justice likewise the ordinary people,” she said.
The BNP-Jamaat had announced hartal on the day of delivering the verdict in the case, she continued.
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq presided over the function.
Secretary of Law and Justice Division of the ministry ASSM Zahurul Haque also spoke while Director of National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO) Md. Aminul Islam gave welcome address on the occasion.
Two people, a woman from Manikganj and a youth from Cumilla, who got the legal aid services from NALSO free of cost, narrated how they got relieve from civil cases, for which they fought legal battle for long five years, through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system at the quickest possible time. Both of them thanked the premier for taking such measures to mitigate the sufferings of the litigants.
The premier called upon all such as various organizations at home and abroad, aid agencies, lawyers and judges to come forward to give the national legal aid services a permanent organisational shape at the grassroots levels as it will help reduce discrimination in getting justice.
She said that her government has enacted the Legal Aid Services Act, 2000 to pave the way of giving justice to the poor, incapable and helpless litigants following the footsteps of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangabandhu had incorporated fundamental rights and the procedure of giving the legal aid services to the people in the Constitution, she said.
“The judiciary should be reshuffled in such a way that the people can get justice in one and a half years and we are making arrangement to this respect. Hope it will happen accordingly,” the premier quoted the Father of the Nation as saying.
The legal service aid activities had got stuck during the BNP-Jamaat regime, she said, adding that the Awami League once again initiated the process after assuming power in 2008.
Any poor citizen, especially acid attack victims, widow or abandoned female by husband, people languishing in jail without trial, differently able people, victims of human trafficking, or people who are unable to get justice, are being given legal assistance at government’s cost through the service, she added.
Referring to some incidents of deprivation from the properties of parents in rich and sophisticated families, the premier requested the authorities concerned to take measures as the daughters can get their parent’s particularly their father’s properties upon death of their fathers.
Permanent legal aid offices have been set up at each of the upazilas and created posts of legal aid officers at 64 districts and judges are being appointed in the posts to make the national legal aid services effective, she mentioned.
Legal aid committees have been formed at each of the union, upazila and district and special committee has been formed to give legal aid to ‘chowki adalat’ and ‘labour court’, she said.
The government has introduced alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system to discourage the people in filing cases and settle the issues out of the court, she said.
Legal aid offices have taken initiatives to dissolve 17,929 pre-case and post-case issues through the ADR and mediation and 16,513 litigants have got its benefit, she also said.
As many as 393790 litigants have been given legal aid services free of cost and 1.68 lakh cases have been disposed in the last 10 years, she said.
The premier said that there is no substitute of independent judiciary to establish the rule of law, which is necessary to give the democracy, which was achieved through sacrifices, a permanent shape.
“For this reason, we have separated the judiciary. Separate pay scale has already been introduced for the officials of the judiciary. The salaries and allowances of the judges have been made double and special allowances have also been given to them alongside ensuring house loan for them,” she continued.
The government has appointed 1026 judges in the trial courts since 2010 while appointment of 99 others is under process aimed at resolving the long pending cases, she said, adding that 128 additional judges have been given vehicles with drivers.
Initiatives have been taken to ensure the use of information technology at all the levels for the transparency and accountability of the judiciary so that people get justice, she also said.
The government has taken measures to give training to 540 judges in Western Sydney University, in Australia, 30 judges in Japan while two Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) have been signed with India to give training to 1500 judges, she added.
She said that her government will form virtual courts through which trial process will be held using online to speed up the trial process.
The premier said the country is set to observe the birth centennial of the Father of the Nation in 2020 and the Golden Jubilee of Independence in 2021, she said, adding that a ‘Sonar Bangladesh’ will be established with collective efforts of all.
This year, the National Legal Aid Services Day is being observed with the theme of “Sheikh Hasina’s contribution to Bangabandhu’s Sonar Bangla: Providing Legal Aid Free of Cost (Bangabandhu’s Sonar Banglay Sheikh Hasinar Obodan: Binamulle Legal Aid e Aini Sebadan)”.
To make people aware of the legal aid services, the government declared Apr 28 as National Legal Aid Services Day on Jan 29, 2013.