Of them, 45 cases were settled while only one accused was punished with a monetary fine of Tk 5,000 in a single case. From reviewing the documents it was found that defendants were released mostly for reasons like feeble investigation, filing charge sheets and cases under ‘wrong law’ and being unable to summon witnesses in front of the court.
The Public Examination (Offences) Act was passed in 1980. Cases are filed under this act for offences like leaking question paper, helping examinee using books or devices, sitting for exams instead of the examinee, forging certificates or creating obstruction in exams.
However in last few years, cases were recorded under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act for allegations of leaking question papers in exams using digital devices. Now, Digital Security Act is also being used in such cases. Lawsuits filed under these two acts are currently being tried under the cyber tribunal and the CMM court of Dhaka.
In the year 2009, two cases were filed under the Public Examination (Offences) Act in Dhaka, whereas last year the number was 33. In last 13 years, highest 46 cases were recorded in 2014 and second highest 43 cases were lodged in 2018. Meanwhile, only three lawsuits were recorded under the act in the first two months of the current year.
Court sources said out of all the cases filed under the act in Dhaka, 98 are currently at the witness deposition phase while 15 others are on charge framing level.
On 23 June 2019, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) submitted charge sheet under two separate acts against 125 people including 87 students of Dhaka University, on allegations of association with question paper leak and forgery during DU admission test. Of them, trial of the case, filed under Public Examinations (Offences) Act has started while the other is pending at cyber tribunal.
No one found guilty in 98pc cases
Out of the 45 cases settled at Dhaka CMM court, none of the accused were penalised in 44 cases. That is to say, 98 per cent of the cases were dismissed.
Accused in 18 of these cases were exempted even before the charge sheet framing. Allegations were disproved in 15 cases, and in 11 cases defendants were acquitted after court had received the final report from police.
Among the settled cases, there are five cases that were filed on charges of question paper leak. The number of cases lodged under accusation of providing aid to examinee in different ways is 31. Six cases were recorded on charges of proxy in the examinations while three cases were filed for forgery of certificates.
KM Rezwanul Ehsan, Irfatun Kawsar and Farha Farzana were caught for cheating at the admission test of DU ‘A’ unit with the use of digital medium in 2014. On 26 November of 2019, Dhaka CMM court acquitted all three of the accused named in the case, filed in connection with this incident.
The court said in the verdict that prosecution had produced only one witness. Even the evidences that were recovered in the case were not produced in the court. The prosecution was unable to prove the allegations, added the verdict.
Abdullah Abu, chief prosecutor of Dhaka metropolitan session court speaking to Prothom Alo on this issue said that he was not informed of the fact that prosecution is failing to prove most of the cases filed in connection with the offences made during public examinations. He added that he will explore the issue.
Job exams not ‘public exam’
A ‘fake examinee’ named Abida was caught for attending a viva-voce for the post of office assistant at Dhaka divisional commissioner’s office on 13 March, 2018. In this connection a case was filed under 3-A section of Public Examinations (Offences) Act.
The court acquitted the defendant on 15 November, 2020. It was said in the verdict that, the offence does not fall under the Public Examinations (Offence) Act as it was a job exam. There were no elements for bringing charges against the accused.
Investigation officer of this case, the then sub-inspector (SI) of Ramna police station Mohammad Abdul Baten told Prothom Alo that he is not aware if the defendant was acquitted or not. Moreover, he also didn’t know that offences committed during job exams do not fall under Public Examination (Offences) Act.
From analysing those seven cases where accused were acquitted even before the charge sheet was submitted, it was found that incidents were of offences related to job examinations but, cases were filed under Public Examinations (Offences) Act.
Defendants of four such cases were released for this reason. Meanwhile, accused of three more cases were acquitted for the list of seized items was not prepared properly.
Abdullah Abu, chief prosecutor of Dhaka metropolitan session court said, if cases that do not fall under the criteria of Public Examinations (Offences) Act, were filed under the act, it will be investigated.
In section 1-D of the act it has been mentioned, “The term ‘public examination’ refers to any exams that are or can be directed, controlled or organised by any public university or board. According to this definition job exams cannot be considered as ‘public exam’.
Muhammad Nurul Huda, former inspector general of police, said to Prothom Alo, quick steps are needed after identifying the failures of prosecutors, for which accused are being acquitted of charges. According to him, job exams and other such exams-related offences should be included in the definition of ‘public exam’.
Exception in a single case
On 23 November of 2018, Mehedi Shamim was detained during a job exam for the post of wireless operator at the narcotics control department. The allegation against him was that he impersonated an examinee named Atiqur Rahman and sat for the exam instead of him. In this incident, case was filed under section 3-B of Public Examinations (Offence) Act.
In the verdict of the case court sentenced him to pay a fine of Tk 5,000 on 29 October 2020. The verdict stated there were no elements for framing charges against the accused under the section of 3-B of Public Examinations (Offence) Act.
However, charges were framed against the accused for fraud (section 419 of the penal code). As the accused pleaded guilty when charges were read out to him, he was sentenced to pay a fine of Tk 5,000 by the court.
Allegations in most of the settled cases, filed under Public Examinations (Offences) Act, are not being proved in the court for feeble investigation. When asked about it, police spokesperson Mohammad Faruk Hossain, deputy commission (media and public relations) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, claimed that he is unaware of it.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik said policemen are aware of the penal code how to investigate the offences under the Code of Criminal Procedure or how to arrange witnesses are all known to them.
He observes, “Now the way out of this is to add the new offence in the existing penal code with one or two subsections; such as, the offence of question paper leak in public examination can be added as a subsection to the penal code section 405 (criminal betrayal).”
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Nourin Ahmed Monisha