None should forget that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
So journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol is, in the eyes of some Jashore police men, a "notorious" and "rowdy criminal."
That's why his hands were handcuffed behind his back and that is how he was produced before a local court that granted him bail on charge of trespassing into Bangladesh. But he did not walk out of the court free from the cuffs. The court sent him to jail for another case filed against him two months ago for allegedly defaming a lawmaker, which is a bailable offence.
If a person is not "notorious" and "rowdy" police cannot handcuff him/her facing any criminal charge.
Section 330 (a) of Police Regulations, Bengal of 1943, prohibits using strict measures by saying, the use of handcuffs or ropes is often an unnecessary indignity.
As per this section, strict measures may be used only to prevent a prisoner or arrestee from escaping from police custody.
The same law remains in force in India. Three decades ago, the Indian Supreme Court in a verdict categorically said: "Handcuffing is prima facie inhumane and unreasonable. It should be used only when the person is desperate, rowdy, or is involved in a non-bailable offence."
Did Kajol behave desperately or try to escape from police custody? No. Police did not raise any such allegation.
So, it is clear that handcuffing him is prima facie inhumane and unreasonable and Jashore police violated section 330 (a) by using excessive force.
However, the police considered him to be a "rowdy criminal" and so he did not deserve decent treatment.
But in the eye of the law, he is still innocent. And he is supposed to get the protection of law. But nothing worked to save him as the law enforcers did not bother to follow any laws that favour Kajol being a citizen of the country.
He is innocent as per a basic tenet of criminal law that says a person is to be presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
No charge sheet was submitted by the police in connection with the defamation case filed against him, nor was any trial held to judge whether he was guilty of committing any offence under the Digital Security Act.
Like any other citizen of Bangladesh, he is entitled to the equal protection of law. It is his fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Like any other citizens of the country, he is also entitled to another fundamental right as per article 35 (5) of our Constitution that clearly says: "No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment or treatment."
But, Kajol had to face cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the Jashore police.
Such behavior with a citizen by the law enforcers is a criminal offence under the Torture and Custodial death (prevention) Act 2013 that prohibits both mental and physical torture in any situation.
A member of the law enforcement agency may be convicted and sentenced to jail up to five years for committing this offence.
Will the cops who disregarded the criminal laws and the supreme law of the land--the Constitution, face any actions?
Or is it only Kajol who is liable for allegedly violating the laws and will only he be punished for any such violation?
How did Kajol commit the offence of trespassing by entering his own country from a neighboring state?
He went missing after leaving his office on March 10 in the capital, a day after a ruling party lawmaker from Magura-1 filed a case against him and 31 others on charge of publishing a report with "false information". A second case was filed against him under the Digital Security Act on the same day he went missing.
His wife Julia Ferdousi Nayan filed a general diary with the Chawkbazar police station the next day.
Later, different journalists and human rights organisations staged protests and formed human chains demanding information on his whereabouts.
After 24 days, Kajol was suddenly found early morning on Sunday at Jashore.
Benapole Port Police Station's Officer-in-Charge Mamun Khan said, Kajol was detained by members of the Raghunathpur BGB camp on charges of illegal entry early Sunday and handed over to the police station after filing a case on an allegation of entering Bangladesh from India illegally.
Nobody knows how he had ended up in India. But, he was accused of illegally entering Bangladesh. The law seems to have taken its own course! He was charged with trespassing. The court will decide whether he is guilty or not.
But, will the Jashore policemen be brought to book for the cruel, inhumane and illegal punishment meted out to Kajol?
Unfortunately, the incident of handcuffing Kajol to present him to the court took place on the day the country was observing the World Press Freedom Day.
The picture of a handcuffed Kajol went viral on social media sparking public outcry.
The outcry will die down gradually whether any action is taken against the policemen or not as has happened in the past.
For example, in August 2015, journalist Probir Sikder, a one-legged person, was arrested in connection with a case filed against him under the Information and Communication Technology Act. The police had him, a crippled person, handcuffed while taking him to the court.
Even though that incident also generated widespread criticism no action was taken against the policemen who inflicted this indignity on him breaking the country's law.
There are many more incidents of the police randomly handcuffing the accused. These violations of the laws by the law enforcers have been growing encouraged by the absence of any action in a culture of impunity. Every incident similar to the above cases scars the face of the country's rule of law.
Therefore, the entire incident centreing journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol should properly be investigated. How did Kajol go missing? How did he end up in India and how did he enter Bangladesh? Why did the police treat him in an inhumane way?
This should not be treated as an isolated incident to be overlooked, allowing the Jashore police to flout the law.
None should forget that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."