Transfer only ‘punishment’ for corrupt jail officials

Kashimpur central jail
Kashimpur central jailFile photo
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Inquiries are made into irregularities and corruption that take place within the country’ jails, but punishment is rare. Hardly a handful of the guilty persons are actually punished. Stern action is often recommended, but this normally results in a mere reprimand. In many cases, the accused are merely transferred to less important jails. Then after a few months, they pull some strings and bounce back to key posts.

Recently a convict in Kashimpur central jail had made a ladder and used it to escape. Not long after that, another prisoner escaped from a hospital in the capital city. Concerned officials of the home ministry, on 1 and 3 September, held an online meeting with 64 jail superintendants regarding these incidents. The jail officials were warned that if such incidents continued to take place, legal action would be taken.

The concerned inquiry committee has submitted its report concerning the prison escape of the convict who made a ladder for the purpose. A letter was sent to the home ministry on 27 August, calling for the recommendations of the report to be published. The letter recommended that 21 persons, including the senior jail superintendent Jahanara Begum, jailor Baharul Islam and five deputy jailors, be removed from the central jail.

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Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “I always instruct them to take punitive measures. If you commit a crime, you will be punished. That is the rule. I do not understand why they create such a fuss over the matter. But I will look into this. Action will be taken against those who fail to take action.”

Home ministry sources have said that before coming to the Kashimpur jail, Jahanara Begum had been the jail superintendant at Cumilla jail. Allegations of irregularities were brought against her there and deputy secretary of the ministry, Munirzzaman, carried out an inquiry into the matter. It was the recommended that departmental action be taken and that she and a number of other officials be transferred to a jail of lesser importance. But the prison authorities simply warned the jail superintendent and transferred her to Kashimpur central jail-2, the country’s largest and most important prison.

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Investigations into the corruption of the jailor at Chattogram, found 49 jail officials and employees guilty, including Chattogram central jail’s DIG Partho Gopal Banik, senior jail superintendent Prashanta Kumar Banik, senior jail superintendent Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury, jailor Sohel Rana Biswas and seven deputy jailors.

These are criminal offences and legal action must be taken accordingly. If the accused is simply transferred, he or she will commit the same offence in the next jail.
Shahdeen Malik, Supreme Court lawyer

On 26 October 2018, the railway police arrested jailor Sohel Rana Biswas from a Mymensingh-bound train, in possession of Tk 4,443,000 (Tk 4 lakh 43 thousand), Tk 25 million (Tk 2 crore 50 thousand) in FDR, a cash cheque of Tk 13 million (Tk 1 crore 30 lakh), and 12 bottles of phensydyl. He was on the way to his home in a village of Mymensingh. Investigations into the sources of this money revealed rampant corruption in Chattogram central jail. Punitive action was recommended.

Senior jail superintendent Prashanta Kumar Banik was transferred to Barishal. Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury was transferred to Dhaka central jail. With various allegations arising against him again, on Friday he was transferred to Rangpur central jail. Police arrested DIG Partho Gopal Banik from his house on charges of taking bribes and he is now in prison.

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A review of various inquiry reports indicates the jails are rife with irregularities and corruption. From the entry to the exit of prisoners, nothing is done without money. Money bends the rules. And the main reason that the crime and corruption cannot be controlled is that this is all aided and abetted by the ‘higher authorities’.

Lawyer Shahdeen Malik, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that simply transferring them, taking departmental action or even cutting a year’s pay, will not stop them from continuing to commit these crimes. These are criminal offences and legal action must be taken accordingly. If the accused is simply transferred, he or she will commit the same offence in the next jail.

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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