Sources said that DNC officials were plaintiffs in most of these cases. The DNC carried out the investigation. Some of the cases were investigated by police. Both of the sides showed excuse that faulty charge-sheets and FIR, failure to produce actual witnesses before the court and inappropriate submission of evidences finally benefited the accused persons.
The prosecutions failed to prove the complaints as depositions from the witnesses and plaintiffs did not match. Besides, many DNC officials, despite showing high interest in seizing narcotics, did not make necessary efforts in the investigation. As a result, the court received weak charge sheets.
According to DNC, 50,599 people were accused in the cases solved in last 20 years. Among the accused, 26,138 got acquittal, meaning that investigation officers failed to prove complaints against 52.23 per cent of the accused persons. In 2020, 57.95 per cent of the accused drug dealers freed from detention. An analysis on the case studies of last five years calculated that 55.61 per cent of the accused drug dealers were acquitted of the charges.
An analysis on the proceedings of narcotics cases in last 20 years makes it clear that both DNC and police authorities remained indifferent to reverse the trend of series of failures.
No higher officials entertained Prothom Alo queries on the issue. However, some investigators familiar with the narcotics cases said proceedings of narcotics cases require quick investigation. Investigators have to submit charge-sheet in the quickest possible time. That’s why, there is a tendency to submit charge sheets on the basis of FIRs. As a result, many flaws remain in the cases.
Four years ago, DNC arrested a drug peddler with 500 pieces of yaba from Dhakshinkhan area of Dhaka. DNC filed a narcotics case with Dakshinkhan police station. After investigation, Dakshinkhan police submitted a charge sheet accusing five people. Because of faulty FIR and mismatching evidences, the prosecution failed to prove the case. Finally, the court acquitted all the five accused of the case.
While asked, Dhaka CMM court public prosecutor Abdullah Abu told Prothom Alo that, real criminals can escape if there is a flaw in the FIR and evidences are not collected properly. It becomes hard to prove many cases due to negligence by the investigation officers as well as absence of credible witnesses.
Associates also proved not guilty
DNC officials of Kushtia district arrested two persons with 800gm heroin in their possession during a raid at the border area Doulatpur four years ago. DNC inspector Tareque Mahmud filed a case accusing the two and eight of their associates. After investigation, Doulatpur police submitted a charge sheet—accusing the 10 drug dealers--on 10 January 2018. However, the prosecution failed to prove complaint against the eight associates. In October 2019, a court sentenced the two key drug dealers to death and acquitted the associates.
Plaintiff of the case Tareque Mahmud claimed that the eight associates were members of the drug trading syndicate. That’s why they were named in the case. As the court disposed the case acquitting the associates, he has nothing to do with it.
Usually, investigation officers include the accused persons (named in the FIR) in the charge sheet. In many cases, the investigation officers do not add names to the charge sheet even if they could find others' involvement in the case. Moreover, they do not dig out further about the associates. That’s why complaints against the associates cannot be proved sometimes, prosecution lawyers said.
AFM Masum Rabbani worked at DNC as director (operations) before his present position at Dhaka Metropolitan Police as additional commissioner (logistics, finance and procurement). While enquired, he told Prothom Alo that there is an obligation in narcotics case to file the charge sheet within a specified time-frame. Even then, quality investigation should be prioritised to punish the criminals and their associates. A court can avoid punishing someone when a quality investigation fails to convince the judges to do it.
Court’s observation ignored
In May 2017, the Pirojpur judicial magistrate court in a verdict of a case filed by the DNC acquitted an accused caught with illegal drugs. The court, in its observation, said the case was filed as well as investigated by the same person. There was no scope to consider the plaintiff as a neutral witness. Despite having enough time, the prosecutions failed to produce the other witnesses before the court. The defenders cashed in on the opportunity. The prosecutions failed to prove that the accused person was caught red-handed with the illegal drugs.
An analysis found that most of the disposed cases received court observations. The observations highlighted weak investigation, failure in bringing credible witnesses, and negligence by the investigation officers. But there is no visible improvement.
DNC additional director general Abdus Sabur Mandal told Prothom Alo, “A court delivers judgment after evaluating many factors. We do not have any negligence in the investigation. Our officers receive training and guidance on regular basis so that they can properly file and investigate the complaints."
However, the reality appears otherwise as the number of persons acquitted of narcotics cases are increasing day by day. For example, the percentage of acquittal was 55.95 in 2016 and 58.37 in 2020.
DNC filed 188,678 narcotics case in last 20 years (2001-2020), accusing 204,763 persons. In two decades, 46,907 cases were disposed of.
Penal Code expert lawyer Ehsanul Haque Shomaji recently gave his advice. He told Prothom Alo that investigation officers should take consultancy from the learned public prosecutor before filing charge sheet on narcotics cases.
This type of collaboration can help prove the complaints, Shomaji said adding if the investigation goes on in accordance with due procedures following the public prosecutors’ advice, criminals can hardly escape punishment.
*The original report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman.