A number of 1,700 convicts waiting in the condemned cells for the final court verdict is a violation of human rights. The speedy trial of these cases must be seen differently from the three million pending cases. There is no doubt about the heinous nature of these crimes. Death is actually exemplary punishment for such offences. So, delay in settling such cases sends out a negative message to the society.
However, certain situations require farsightedness. The government has less responsibility over the deadlock over the hearing of death reference cases, because only the chief justice has the power to resolve the issue. If a zero tolerance policy was implemented to settle the cases, the number of pending death reference cases would not reach near 100 with the Appellate Division in the last 6 to 15 years.
Between May 2015 and May 2018, appeal petitions made by 48 death reference accused were disposed of, meaning the High Court could not settle more than 12 cases in a year. If the trials are conducted at double the speed, it would still take more than 70 years to clear the log. No time limit has been defined in the paper book too for the High Court officials to initiate the hearings in these cases.
There is no alternative but for special initiative to be taken by the chief justice. Only three among the High Court benches are hearing the death reference cases. They cannot even hold hearing for cases filed after 2014. It is crucial to maintain the serial, but this has complicated the situation further.
When the whole nation awaits speedy trial of the killers of Feni's Nusrat and Barguna's Rifat, actually the confirmation hearing of the death sentence will not take place in the next five years. But people were also relieved as speedy verdicts were produced in the cases of Rajib, Rajon, Khalaf, seven murders, Pilkhana massacre.
According to the law commission and senior advocates, the solution to the problem is difficult. Those who are imprisoned for life can receive bail after serving time in the jail. But those awarded with death cannot avail bail. Those who will be freed after spending 15 years in the condemned cell will not be compensated by the state. But the death row convicts cannot be blamed for the delay in hearing. It should be considered whether the jail code could be revised and the provision to keep the accused in the condemned cell should be changed.
If five benches work together, at least 10 experienced justices and 10 advocates are required. There is no alternative to this. The Supreme Court, parliamentary committee and law ministry could discuss and take fast action to ensure this.