A Bangladeshi UNO (Upazila Nirbahi Officer) was jailed over publishing a drawing made by a school kid! As ridiculous as it may sound, he was cross examined and sent to jail over a defamation case of 10 Million taka. A diligent Advocate from Barisal claimed that the drawing depicted a distorted image of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The accused, Mr. Salman Tariq regularly organized art competition in schools in Barisal’s Agailjhara area as a part of his programs. One such competition was held on the birthday of the Father of the Nation, where the kids participated. The first and second prize promised publication of 2 of the best paintings on the front and back fold of an invitation card.
The first prize winner drew a colorful scene of the Muktibahinis ambushing in a forest while the back fold of the card showed a hand drawn picture of Bangabandhu. The portrait was drawn thoughtfully by a 5th grader. This sparked outrage among Barisal Bar Association lawyers led by its President. an FIR was filed and the UNO was arrested.
I pulled another all nighter to give my two cents on this issue.
Observing the invitation card, any reasonable person can clearly understand that the paintings were drawn by kids. The portrait of Bangabandhu is almost perfect, considering it was drawn by an 11 year old. Therefore, undoubtedly there was no ulterior motive behind it. Even just in case, let’s suppose there was, it will not qualify for an offence under s.83 of the Penal Code 1860.
Also, publishing it on the card do not convey any defamatory message. However, the Advocate brought a defamation case under s.501 of the Penal Code 1860 which states:
“Whoever prints or engraves any matter, knowing or having good reason to believe that such matter is defamatory of any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
There are no laws explicitly stating the prohibition of hand drawn pictures of the Father of the Nation. Unless any reasonable man finds it to be defamatory, any person may enjoy drawing as it is a freedom of expression granted by the Constitution of Bangladesh [Article 39 (2) (a)]. Thus, publishing anything otherwise barred by law is a right.
I found this entire situation a publicity stunt. The trend of filing Writs and Suits on such sensitive issues have been there for quite a while. If you are lucky you get national support, if you are not, you face the court. It was unfair towards Mr. Salman who had to bear the gruelling trial sessions.
While in the process of increasing political favorability, the complainant of this case discouraged a larger group of people in expressing their views. His unfounded claim impliedly restricted citizens’ liberty to express in literature and arts. A sense of fear will prevail which is clearly in conflict with the provisions of our Constitution.