In many of such ‘ghostly cases’, accused people are either dead, were abroad, or hospitalized at the time the alleged offence took place
It came like a bolt from the blue to Toibur Rahman, a Jubo League leader from Turag thana.
He was finding for words when The Business Standard enquired him about a vandalism case in which he has been named as an eyewitness.
He said this was for the first time that he came to learn about his connection with the case he had been totally unaware of.
"How can one be named as a witness to an incident when one does not have any idea about that event?" asked Toibur Rahman.
Toibur, president of a ward-level committee of the youth wing of the ruling party, is one of the 19 witnesses mentioned in the charge-sheet of a vandalism case filed with the local police station on September 19, 2018, in which 20 leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party have been made accused.
According to the case statement, in the name of demanding the release of jailed BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia leaders and activists of the party on that day gathered on the street in front of Khalpar Bazar under Turag thana with an ulterior motive to instigate anarchy across the country.
When police reached the spot to thwart their ill motive, the BNP men launched attack on the law enforcers, threw cocktails at them and vandalized vehicles. At that time, a number of passers-by including several police personnel got injured.
Police came to know the names of the accused from eyewitnesses and reliable sources, the case statement added.
After completing investigation police filed a charge-sheet before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Dhaka on December 28, 2018.
Most of the witnesses mentioned in the charge-sheet are ruling party supporters. However, like Toibur none of them, with whom The Business Standard contacted, are aware of the case. They said they do not even know that such an incident took place in the area, as mentioned in the case statement.
Another 'eyewitness' Md Shohel Hossain, a Jubo League activist from ward no. 52 under Tugrag thana, claimed that no police official communicated with him over this matter.
When contacted, the Investigation Officer (IO) of this case Md Shohidur Rahman, a sub-inspector at Turag police station, refused to make any comment over the case.
In another case filed with Chawkbazar thana on September 20, 2018, in which a total of 55 people, all of them BNP activists, were accused.
In that case, police provided a charge-sheet on January 20, 2019 but there was no difference between the First Information Report (FIR) and the charge-sheet.
When these correspondents of The Business Standard talked to the local people about the case, they said they have no idea about the incident.
Seeking anonymity, a tea stall owner claimed that he has been selling tea in the area for the last 10 years and according to him, no such incident happened on September 20, 2018.
BNP activist Syed Hossain Mintu, one of the accused in the case, said that though he has no idea about the incident, he had to serve jail for a few days in this 'fictitious' case.
When contacted, Chawkbazar police station Sub-inspector Kamruzzaman, the investigative officer of this case, said, "If you have any query about this case you should talk to the higher authority. I can't say anything over this matter."
Meanwhile, in another case which was filed with Pallabi Police Station on July 23, 2018, police provided charge sheet in May this year. Like in the Turag and Pallabi cases in this case too similarities were found in both FIR and the charge-sheet.
And like in the previous instances the investigative officer of this case, Pallabi thana Sub-inspector Md Saiful Islam, refused to make any comment to media.
These are three instances of the hundreds of cases that had been filed in the months before the 2018 general election against leaders and supporters of opposition parties.
According to the BNP, over 300,000 of its leaders and activists have been implicated in over 4,000 such 'false and fabricated' cases.
The Human Rights Watch earlier found that one partial set of 14 cases, filed by just six of Dhaka's 49 police stations in the first week of September 2018, names 519 individuals and an unspecified number of unidentified people, accusing them of a variety of crimes. The allegations specify that all of the accused belong to the BNP.
In many of such 'ghostly cases', accused people are either dead, were abroad, or hospitalized at the time the alleged offence took place.
On October 17, 2018, Zasim Uddin Chaudhary, a BNP supporter, was charged with throwing petrol bombs in Chattogram, exactly a year to the day since his death.
Nasrul Islam, who was indicted on September 5, 2018, died five days earlier.
Another, Mintu Kumar Das, a Dhaka BNP leader charged with blocking a road on September 11, 2018, died in 2007. Police chief, Mohammad Javed Patwary, acknowledged numerous such errors had occurred.
In another case filed with Sudharam Police Station in Noakhali on December 12, 2018, one Abu Taher who died of cancer eight years ago, was accused of attending an unlawful assembly and killing of a Jubo League man around 16 kilometers from his home.
The High Court also raised questions about the image of the Bangladesh Police after the several thousands of such ghost cases were lodged countrywide.
"These cases are mainly politically motivated. Most of the cases were filed before the election but the accused in those cases are still being harassed in many ways. If the judiciary can function independently, then the rate of such cases can be reduced," Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, an advocate of the Supreme Court and a human rights activist, told The Business Standard.
"In the history of criminal law in our country, this type of cases had never been filed before. This is an innovative idea which is applied by our politicians. According to the law of the land, those who file false cases and submit false charge sheet can be brought under punitive action," he added.
The Business Standard also contacted some high officials at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and police headquarters but neither of them has made any statement over the 'ghost cases'.
"Politically motivated cases were filed before as well but this type of fake and fabricated cases have never been filed before. These cases are being filed only to make political gain by weakening the opposition," BNP Publicity Affairs Secretary Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Annie told The Business Standard.
"This is very much unfortunate that we have to deal with these ghost cases," he added.
Mentionable, On November 1, 2018, during a dialogue with Jatiya Oikya Front, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had asked the BNP leaders to submit the list of its arrested leaders and activists to her.
In response, on November 7, 2018, the BNP submitted a list of 1,046 'fictitious cases' filed against its leaders and activists to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
On November 13, 2018, the party submitted another list of 1,002 ghost cases filed against its leaders and activists to the Prime Ministers' Office (PMO).
In a letter attached with the list, BNP had requested the government to stop arrest and harassment of its leaders and activists in 'false' and 'fictitious' cases.