Are Bangladeshi Policemen Secretly Magicians?

It is of no doubt that some members of the Bangladesh Police are multi talented. Besides catching criminals, they are expert magicians. In the name of search, they demonstrate their skills by making pouches of yaba tablets appear out of nowhere in their suspects’ pockets. And for ‘volunteering’ such public display, these magicians pick people of all class, even if they aren’t willing to participate.

One swish with their wand like baton and voila, “AbraCaDabra, Look I found the Yaba!”.

Apart from the humor, reports of the police allegedly planting yaba pills in pockets are on the rise. Constables and even Sub inspectors have been reported to harass innocent pedestrians on false allegation of carrying yaba tablets. Fearing social humiliation, they pay a heavy price to dismiss the case for good, while giving these conmen a faster income source.

This method has become a common phenomenon in Bangladesh in recent times. It is definitely a form of police brutality and a sheer abuse of power. It raises concern about human rights situation in the country. An individual falls into the trap laid down by some mischievous persons in power. Just like a magic show, these tricksters are acquainted by an unsuspecting source. He does all the work of putting things here and there. As he gets his job done, a final move is initiated by the authoritative officer.

Such practice has been rampant particularly in metropolitan areas. This is due to the recent rise in smuggled yaba entering the country. More than 10 cases of false allegations have been reported in 2016 alone. Few of these reports from the leading dailies have been mentioned in the following.

On the 31st January 2016, a female student was sexually harassed and alleged to carry 200 yaba pills. This was after she was brought down from her rickshaw by the SI of Mohammadpur area and taken to a shop in the name of search. According to the woman, the policemen searched her bag for an hour and asked her to take off her jacket with indecent language. The SI was later suspended.[1]

In February of the same year, a Barisal police official was suspended for extortion and harassing two businessman. The sub-inspector forcefully took the persons to a hotel in Natun Bazar bus terminal area and demanded Tk 50,000 from them, according to a complaint by the businessmen. Later, the SI put Yaba tablets into one of the persons’ pocket and threatened to arrest them if they do not give him the sum, the businessmen alleged.[2]

In the late October of 2016, a sub inspector of Chowgacha Police Station kept the pills via a source at a store owned by Mr. Rabon Kumar. The pills were found by the SI after the source came out. After other traders in the market stood up for Rabon, the SI and his source fled the scene.[3]

On December 2016, two Chittagong Metropolitan Police constables were closed for deliberately putting yaba pills in a journalist’s pocket. Mr. Mostafa was brought down from his bus and taken to the police box. He alleged that the constable tried to trap him when he found nothing searching his pocket. [4]

This year, three incidents of similar pattern took place in Jessore. On 11th June, one SI got into trouble as tried to slide in a packet of opium into a young man’s pocket in the Baily Road area. On 15th June, an SI of the Kotwali Police Station of Benapole was closed for trying to make a college teacher accused in drug case. A source of the SI tried to arrest the teacher after inserting some Yaba pills into his pocket, triggering a chaos.[5]

Two days after this incident, a police constable of Jessore faced mob beating for allegedly putting yaba in one Pikul’s pocket. In the way of conversation, the constable tried to put 3-4 pieces of Yaba tablets wrapped in a polythene packet into Pikul’s pocket. Upon Pikul’s screaming, mobs gathered and punched police constable as they found Yaba tablets in his hand.[6]

Recently, on June 27th this year, a journalist named Ashik was stopped by a patrol and put on a police van. He was beaten and told he’d be set free if he paid Tk. 100,000. After the journalist said he could only pay Tk. 5,000, the police charged him with possession of yaba, according to a report of bdnews24.[7]

Legally Bangali Blog

Yaba: the most widely available drug in Bangladesh

What does the law say and what can be done?

The abovementioned cases are the ones that were reported. Many of them go unnoticed, due to the victim being compelled to pay huge amounts to shut down the case. This is because they receive threats of getting charged under Section 19 (9a) of the Narcotics Act 1990 which means at least 6 months jail time.

It can be observed that in almost all of these reported incidents, the stop and search took place away from the public, behind police vans or dark alleys. Whereas section 280 (a) of the Police Regulations, Bengal (PRB) 1943 requires that searches be made in a way such that the eyewitnesses to the whole search and must be able to see clearly where each article is found. ‘They should then sign the search list (B.P. Form No. 44).’

Clause (h) of Section 280 states that ’Care should be taken that the witnesses are, so far as possible, unconnected with any of the parties concerned or with the police, so that they may be regarded as quite independent.’ However, not surprisingly, the witnesses in real life are the other policemen who were present at the scene. The PRB strongly recommends that the searches be made with regard to the law contained in Chapter VII and sections 102, 103, 163 and 166 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Crpc) 1898.

Section 103 of the Crpc requires that the search to be made in presence of a witness. The officer about to make the search shall call upon two or more respectable inhabitants of the locality. The search shall be made in their presence and a list of all things seized in the course of such search shall be prepared by the officer. It shall be signed by the witnesses.

Once a victim is picked up, it is their family who suffer the most. Usually such policemen threaten to charge a liability under s.19 of the Narcotics Act 1990 concerning the victim unless he/she gives him money. The policeman thus induces the victim’s family to pay the sum. Therefore, the families resort to paying huge amounts of cash to get their son or daughter released.

Note that Section 163 (1) of the Crpc states that no police officer shall offer or make any such inducement or threat as mentioned in Section 24 of the Evidence Act 1872. Section 24 of the said Act states a confession of an accused person shall be irrelevant if it was made by inducement or threat.

This also attracts the offence of Extortion defined in section 383 of the Penal Code 1860. This section states that whoever puts another person in fear and dishonestly induces to handover property or valuable security, commits extortion.  Section 384 states that whoever commits extortion shall be punished with an imprisonment of three years of either description or fine, or both.

Since the seizure list contain the items recovered and pouches of yaba are exhibited in the court, victims face immediate imprisonment.  However, Section 196 of the Penal Code 1860 states ‘Whoever corruptly uses or attempts to use as true or genuine evidence, any evidence which he knows to be false or fabricated, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave or fabricated false evidence.’

As mentioned before, the BP Form No. 44 or the seizure list is mostly signed by policemen. So, there is no way the actual truth can be unearthed. This creates a possibility of falsifying the report to imprison the victim. Here Section 219 of the Penal Code 1860 states ‘Whoever, being a public servant, corruptly or maliciously makes or pronounces in any stage of a Judicial proceeding, any report, order, verdict, or decision which he knows to be contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.

Knowing your rights and acting upon it can save your reputation and time. If you are truly innocent and want to establish that the allegation made was false, you can claim it under the Penal Code. Section 211 of the Penal Code 1860 talks about false charge of offence made with intent to injure.

This section states ‘Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.’

The funny thing about such allegations made is that the ‘criminal’ and his crime do not correspond. How can someone expect a professor of a reputed university to carry 1-2 pieces of Yaba in his/her pocket? Will a service holder do the same? The general disposition of a person and his background must go with his/her activities.

A person having a social stand and reputation is not expected to do something that might ruin it. Hence, such allegations made by the police fall flat infront of logic. A reasonable man having a sound sense of judgment would refuse to believe them. A false conviction may leave anyone with a permanent scar. They get labeled, called names and face immediate social alienation. That too for not committing any crime.

There is a slogan popular among us that ‘Police Jonogoner Bondhu’ (the police are a friend of the citizens). But how is harassing an innocent citizen a friendly attitude? Their role is to protect the law not defying it. They should leave the magic tricks to the ones who genuinely know how to do so. It cannot be denied that the Bangladesh Police over the years has contributed effectively in minimizing crimes. Therefore the entire police force does not deserve to be vicariously blamed for the actions of a few. The trust must not break. The black sheep must be identified and strictly punished for giving other policemen a bad name.

 

[1] The Independent (2016), ‘Adabor Police SI harassed female student’ [published on 11th February 2016, available on http://www.theindependentbd.com/arcprint/details/33604/2016-02-11%5D

[2] The Daily Star (2016), ‘Barisal City Cop suspended for extortion’ [published on 3rd February 2016, available on http://www.thedailystar.net/country/barisal-city-cop-suspended-‘extortion’-211861%5D

[3] Dhaka Tribune {2016), ‘Police SI lays yaba trap but flees after mob beating’ [published on 26th Oct. 2016, available on http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/10/27/police-si-lays-yaba-trap-flees-mob-beating/%5D

[4] Daily Sun newspaper (2016), ‘Two Cops closed for harassing journalist’, [published on 7th Dec. 2016, available on http://www.daily-sun.com/arcprint/details/190053/Two-cops-closed-for-harassingjournalist/2016-12-07%5D

[5] Ntv Online (2017) ‘Cops closed for putting Yaba pills into teacher’s pocket’ [published on 16th June 2017, available on http://en.ntvbd.com/bangladesh/59543/Cops-closed-for-putting-Yaba-pills-into-teacher’s-pocket%5D

[6] Bangla News 24 (2017) ‘Police Constable lynched in Jessore’ [published on 18th June, available on http://www.banglanews24.com/english/national/article/61758/Police-constable-lynched-in-Jessore]

[7] bdnews24.com (2017), ‘Journalists demonstrate over photojournalist’s arrest for yaba possession’ [published on 8th July 2017, available on https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/07/08/journalists-demonstrate-over-photojournalists-arrest-for-yaba-possession%5D

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