After 'fictitious' cases now 'fictitious' depositions too?

Many of the people arrested even though they allegedly did not take part in any programme of opposition BNP
File photo

Much has been written about 'fictitious' or 'false' cases. Innumerable cases of such type have been lodged by the police against leaders and activists of the opposition. Many have been arrested, and many have been convicted too in these cases.

In many instances of such fictitious cases, the depositions are also fictitious or fabricated. And now initiative is being taken to make such fictitious depositions compulsory. This was indicated in a report of Bangla Tribune published on 18 October. The heading of the report by Nuruzzaman Labu read, 'Departmental action against police if "due" testimony not given by police.'

According to the report, the police headquarters has issued orders to take action if a member of the police doesn't turn up to give deposition in a criminal case or does not give "due" testimony. In criminal cases, other than being plaintiff, the police also have to go to court to give testimony in keeping with the charge sheet. If the police is absent on the day of the hearing, there is delay and disruption in the case. So there is nothing wrong in issuing orders for the police to turn up at court to give testimony.

But it is the instructions to give "due" deposition that cannot be taken so simply. If "due" deposition means duly honest testimony, then there would be no problem. But if it means giving testimony in accordance to the government's wishes or plans, they this is questionable.

The Bangla Tribune report said that in the instance of cases filed by the police, directives were issued on behalf of the police IGP to take departmental action if a member of the police did not give deposition in court in keeping with the details of the case statement. If that is true, then giving "due" deposition would mean even in the hearing of a fictitious or false case, the police would have to adhere to the details given in the case statement. He will not be able to play a role in freeing an innocent man by obeying his conscience to tell the truth in face of questions by the defence counsel or the judge.

Conscientious and straightforward members of the police force may be reluctant to give false testimony in such cases (particularly those of the fictitious ilk)

It may be noted that generally speaking no one gives testimony other than the police in the fictitious cases filed against the opposition parties. There are many instances where the convictions are made in such cases based solely on the deposition of the police. After such directives from the police headquarters to give "due" deposition, the number of convictions based on such fabricated statements and testimonies  is likely to increase. Overall, such measures deliver an ominous message, that the police have to lodge fictitious cases, and even give false testimony in court in keeping with the phony details of the charges that have been made. Departmental action will be taken against the police who speak the truth.

We have, in the meantime, already read in the newspapers that the government has urged that the trials of the political cases be carried put speedily. Over the past month, certain pending cases were speedily settled and a number of central leaders of BNP and many of its activists were sentenced. With the election looming large, initiative has been taken to speedily complete the trial of many more such cases. Conscientious and straightforward members of the police force may be reluctant to give false testimony in such cases (particularly those of the fictitious ilk). But the letter from the police headquarters can play a tangible role in passing sentences on the basis of such tailor-made testimonies.

This is alarming. As it is there are many questions among the people about a state institution run on taxpayers' money, where the police fail to carry out their duties in an impartial manner. The role of the police will be questioned even further if the flurry of police activity leads to the speedy conviction of opposition men during the election period.

Directives that create a compulsion during deposition, are contradictory to the law and ethics. Just as it is an offence according to our criminal laws to give false testimony, it is also an offence to force or coerce anyone to give testimony.

The police authorities should take all this into consideration.

* The op-ed has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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