Trial of Limon: Rule of Law Turned on its Head

Bangladesh on 03 July 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : New Age. Image Source: Flickr User

THE commencement of trial in one of the two highly questionable, if not downright fabricated, cases against Limon Hossain, a college student who was unlawfully shot by the Rapid Action Battalion in 2011 and subsequently had to have one of his leg amputated, on Monday will certainly go down as one of the darkest chapters in Bangladesh’s legal and judicial history. According to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, a special tribunal in Jhalakathi framed charges against the college student in an arms case, rejecting his plea of not guilty and petition for discharge. While his lawyers insist that the charge under Section 220 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and that they would appeal before the High Court against the charge framing, the possibility of a reprieve for Limon looks increasingly grim. It is all the more so because the law enforcement apparatus of the state appears adamant to discredit Limon at any cost and has so far had tacit and explicit support from the manager of the state, the Awami League-led government that is. 

In fact, ever since he was shot on March 23, 2011, the police and the battalion have made clear their displeasure with Limon and his family for having sought recourse to the court of law for justice. Besides the two cases filed against Limon, his father, mother, elder brother and 11 others had been implicated in connection with the murder of his brother-in-law, charges that a Jhalakati court subsequently ordered the police not to record. Moreover, the government, whose key functionaries literally froth at the mouth when talking about their commitment to the rule of law in general and to stop extrajudicial actions, including killing, by members of the law enforcement agencies, weighed in its support for the battalion, with the defence adviser to the prime minister claiming that it was the government’s position that Limon and his father had close links with criminals. Besides, the police conveniently cleared the RAB members involved in the shooting of Limon, of any wrongdoing.

Worryingly still, the National Human Rights Commission chairman, who asserted in the aftermath of the shooting that the commission would always be by Limon’s side and should even move the High Court for a judicial probe into what was happening to the college student, has recently voiced his preference for ‘a solution without make the state a rival’. Curiously, his change of heart coincided with a three-extension of his tenure at the helm of the commission.

In such circumstances, the likelihood of a miscarriage of justice, wherein the victim of a crime gets punished while the perpetrators go scot-free, may not be ruled out, which is exactly why all the sections of society need to step forward and raise their voice in sustained protest. It is not only Limon’s fate that hangs in balance but also the rule of law that is being turned on its head. Meanwhile, the incumbents need to realise that they stand bereft of any moral standing to even talk about the rule of law because of their apparent complicity in the law enforcers’ attempt at subversion of justice, and that they can only redeem themselves by intervening in time to pre-empt any such miscarriage of justice.

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