Lokman murder charge sheet an affront to rule of law
THE exclusion of 11 of the 14 accused in the first information report, including the brother and assistant personal secretary of the posts and telecommunications minister, from the charge sheet that the police submitted on Saturday in the former Narsingdi mayor Lokman Hossain murder case tends to indicate, yet again, the Awami League-led government is more intent on protecting people close to the ruling coterie than establishing the rule of law. In doing so, it seems, the government is even willing to ignore the sentiment in the grassroots level of the ruling party, let alone the people at large, which found expression in a rally of several thousand people in Narsingdi on Sunday. The rally, according to a report front-paged in New Age on Monday, was led by Lokman’s brother and current Narsingdi mayor Kamruzzaman and addressed by the Narsingdi president and general secretary of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the ruling party’s associate organisation for students.
However, the exclusion of the 11 from the charge sheet, including the two prime accused in the first information report, may have been on the cards all along. Between November 1, 2011, when Lokman was gunned down, and June 30, when the charge sheet was submitted, allegations were galore that a move had been on to protect many of the accused in the first information report, especially the brother and the assistant personal secretary of the posts and telecommunications minister. Moreover, the investigation officer in the case was himself quoted in a report front-paged in New Age on Sunday as saying that he ‘had to submit the charge sheet suddenly following pressure from the higher authorities.’ Besides, ever since the AL-led government came to power, cases after cases filed against leaders and activists of the ruling alliance, particularly the Awami League, have been withdrawn on the ground that they were ‘politically motivated’. It is also pertinent to add that even the president, a former general secretary of the ruling party, exercised his prerogative under Article 49 of the constitution to ‘grant pardons, reprieves and respites and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority’ on more occasions than one, in cases where the convicts either belonged to the ruling party or its fronts or were relatives of AL leaders.
In such circumstances, the Awami League’s electoral pledge that ‘the rule of law will be established’ sounds like a cruel joke. In fact, as we have commented in these columns many times in the past and as incidents after incidents seem to suggest, the ruling party has apparently redefined the rule of law to be applicable to everyone other than its own leaders and activists. Such selective application of the law is bound to result in miscarriage of justice and, most importantly, erosion of public faith in law enforcement, legal and judicial systems, which, in turn, could touch off pervasive sense of insecurity and even lawlessness. Hence, the incumbents need to allow the law to take its own course and not the course that they dictate, not only in this case alone but across the board. They would be well-advised not to bring the pressure to bear on the district chief judicial magistrate’s court when it hears an objection plea against charge sheet that Lokman’s brother said he would file.
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