We believe the Evidence Act 1872 (Amendment) Bill-2022, passed in the parliament on 3 November is a big step forward in establishing justice.
It has been stated in the amendment that without court’s permission, the victim of a rape or attempted rape case cannot be questioned about their character or past sexual behaviour during interrogation.
Besides, the opportunity to present different digital information as evidences has also been added in the law.
In consequence of the amendment being passed, section 155(4) of the Evidence Act will be annulled. The section stated that when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.
Just as these two sections of the Evidence Act are contradictory towards justice, they are conflicting towards citizen’s basic rights as well. How did such a harsh section survived in the Evidence Act for so long, that’s the question.
Regarding the presentation of digital evidence it has been stated that, to prevent presentation of fake or forged evidence, if the court thinks there’s anything objectionable anywhere or someone objects to something, then the evidence can be examined forensically.
In November 2021, three human rights organisation named Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and Naripokkho filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging the legality of two such sections in the Evidence Act that questions the character of a plaintiff in a rape case.
They sought a court order annulling sections 155(4) and 146(3) of the Evidence Act, 1872, in public interest. At that time, while acknowledging the rationality of the writ the attorney general had promised to revoke the concerning sections as well.
When Supreme Court lawyer and one of the petitioning organisation Ain O Salish Kendra president ZI Khan Panna’s attention was drawn to this amendment he said, “We have been demanding for the Evidence Act to be amended for six years. Though late, the bill has been passed in the national parliament and it's a delightful news.
"However, everyone concerned has to be more alert while appointing women and children court judges. The comments made by the judge, despite being a woman herself, in the Raintree Hotel rape case are objectionable," he added.
While passing any law, opposition members are usually seen objecting to it in the national parliament. That was not the case with the Evidence Act amendment. Opposition MPs also praised the bill presented by law minister Anisul Huq.
This proves that any law passed in public interest, especially in protecting the rights and dignity of women, gains everyone’s support, regardless of party affiliation. We welcome the amendment passed in the national assembly.
In the past, even after committing crimes as heinous as rape accused have used the Evidence Act to divert the case by force of influence. The amendment passed in the parliament will only be effective, if such misuse can be prevented from repetition in the future.