All governments have displayed the propensity to increase punishment or promulgate sterner laws rather than prevent crime and ensure justice through proper application of the existing laws. This has not resulted in anything good. There is no instance in this country where increased punishment has led to decreased crime. Despite this, when governments persist in this trend, questions arise as to the cause behind such initiatives.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Sunday proposed in parliament that the amendment providing an increase in the maximum sentence of the speedy trial act, be passed. This gives rise to the question, why should the sentence term be increased? The parliamentary polls are supposed to be held in December, so it is apparent that this decision has political connotations.
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and BNP vice chairman Khandakar Mahbub Hossain clearly stated that there are all indications of political motives behind the sudden increase in punishment under the speedy trial act. Cases are being filed en masse against BNP leaders and workers. This is an effort to give them lengthy prison sentences and hold a one-sided election. He also said that this law was being used against leaders and workers of the opposition.
Former law minister Abdul Matin Chowdhury, however, said that this law wasn’t being amended to harass opposition leaders and activists, but in the interests of upholding law and order.
We recall that in 2002 when the BNP-Jamaat alliance government enacted this law, it was met with strong opposition from Awami League. They called it a repressive law. The government had said it was in the interests of law and order, and was not politically motivated. Ironically, this is being repeated today. The Awami League which had opposed this law, is now increasing the sentence term. And the BNP which brought about the act, today is opposing it. They have to oppose it. After all, their leaders and activists are bound to be the target of the act.
Enacting laws and using them with political motives is detrimental to the rule of law and democracy. It is also reprehensible in ethical terms. Unfortunately, both the major parties use the laws as political tools. The BNP-Jamaat alliance government enacted this law with a two-year term. It should have been automatically abolished in 2004, but they extended it. Instead of abolishing the law when they came to power, Awami League extended it even further. The law has been thus used as a political tool. And now the maximum punishment of five years prison sentence has been increased to seven years.
There was no need for this. It was more necessary to abolish this law and ensure the effectiveness of the criminal code and the judicial system.