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‘Muscular’ police law unlikely this term

Bangladesh on 21 October 2013
Location : Dhaka, Bangladesh | Source : Dhaka Tribune. Image Source: Flickr User Joe Athialy

A home ministry committee, which was assigned in July to review the draft police law in two months, is yet to complete the task

An initiative to reform the 152-year old police law and give the force complete autonomy falls by the wayside due to “hidden conflict of interest between civil and police administrations.”

A home ministry committee, which was assigned in July to review the draft police law in two months, is yet to complete the task.

Home ministry officials now say the draft law that seeks to empower the police force with more authority than before may not be finalised during the tenure of the present government.

Police officials are upset as the bureaucrats held up the process of finalising the draft Bangladesh Police Act, 2013 and passing the law.

The draft says: “The government will not be able to empower any person, official, authorities or court to control the police officers. The government will form an autonomous police division in coordination with the police officers under the home ministry.”

Moreover, the police chief will be vested with more powers than the home secretary and even the home minister on taking most of the decisions to handle the force independently.

The Police Headquarters prepared the draft with assistance of the Police Reform Programme, and forwarded it to the home ministry. After receiving the draft, the home ministry in July formed a six-member committee headed by its deputy secretary (police) to prepare a new law after reviewing the Police Act, 1861 and the draft of the police law.

The panel was given two months to submit a final draft, but it is yet to complete the task. It is not likely to be prepared within the tenure of the present government, said the home ministry officials.

A senior official told the Dhaka Tribune that the civil bureaucrats had been demanding a revision of the draft law before it was passed in parliament expressing concern that the law might be “misused.”

They are not interested to finalise the draft and get it passed as they believe that the force, which was formed to help the civil administration in implementing the rules and controlling law and order, should not be given complete autonomy, the official said.

The draft law contains 11 chapters, 97 clauses and over 100 sub-clauses on the police reforms while providing magistracy power to officers of the rank of ASP and above.

According to section 11(2), the police chief and officers of the IG rank will have the full authority of a class I executive magistrate. At the same time, the authority of an executive magistrate will be given to an officer of the rank of ASP and above.

According to the bureaucrats, the police officers should not have the magistracy power. They should only help the executive and the judiciary departments by implementing the magistrate’s decisions to maintain law and order.

If they get the magistracy authority, they might misuse it as police carry legal arms with them, the bureaucrats worry.

The bureaucrats claimed that even though the police was supposed to assist the civil administration, the government had separated the law enforcing agencies from the administration.

The police officials are not following the requests of the bureaucrats after the separation. They would not assist the civil administration in the future if they were given complete autonomy.

A high official of the police said the draft law was prepared to strengthen the policing activities. He hoped that the government would enact the new law for the greater interest of the police personnel.

State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku said the ministry would take a decision on the act after the six-member panel finalises the draft. “We are waiting for the draft to be completed,” he added.

The proposed law states: “There will be one police force in the country and it will be known as police force, or police service or Bangladesh Police.”

It says the Inspector General of Police will get the authority of overall management, administration, operation and control. The chief will exercise all powers, including financial authority, like the senior secretary or the secretary of the ministry concerned.

The proposed law also empowers a class II police officer for taking necessary steps against any person for money laundering, misappropriation of money and criminal breach for the prevention and investigation of any financial crime.

At present, these crimes are under the jurisdiction of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The draft law keeps the option open for declaring a police district. “The government can declare any area of the country as a police district, which will be administrated by a superintendent of police.”

It allows any investigating police officer to issue a notice to a person for information. For failing to provide the required information, one can be fined Tk50,000 or face three months of rigorous imprisonment or both.

It also keeps the provision of doing part-time or a second job within the service period of a police officer with prior permission of the police chief. But, it should not be conflicting with the police work and duties.

The draft also keeps a compulsion for the police to inform the family or relatives of an arrestee as soon as possible and they have to ensure the rights and facilities of the accused.

The proposed law also says a court cannot accept any complaint against a police officer without prior permission of the government. Moreover, no case can be accepted against a police officer unless it is filed within six months of an incident of crime or abuse of law while discharging duty.

If anyone wants to file a case against the police, s/he must give two months’ notice with details of the complaint as per the civil law procedure.

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