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Confining convicts in condemned cells before final verdict

HC questions legality of Jail Code provision

Published : 05 Apr 2022 11:55 PM | Updated : 06 Apr 2022 02:02 PM

The High Court has questioned the legality of the jail code provision that allows keeping the death-row convicts in condemned cells before their cases are disposed of finally by the court.

The higher court has issued a rule asking the government to explain why keeping of death-row convicts in condemned cells before attaining finality of sentence by the judicial and administrative forums shall not be declared illegal.

It also wanted an explanation of why Rule 980 of the Bangladesh Jail Code relating to keeping of death-row inmates in condemned cells should not be declared unconstitutional. 

The HC bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Ahmed Sohel delivered the order on Tuesday (April 5) after hearing a writ petition filed by three death-row convicts who are now in condemned cells in different jails.  

Secretary of the Security Services Division of the Home Ministry, Secretary of the Law and Justice Division of the Law Ministry, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Inspector General of Prisons (IG prisons), and Senior Jail Supers of Chattogram Central Jail, Sylhet Central Jail and Cumilla Central Jail have been asked to respond to rule in four weeks.  

The High Court also asked the Inspector General of Prisons to submit a report in the court within six months stating the facilities available for the convicts confined in the condemned cells across the country. 

Advocate Mohammad Shishir Manir, a lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court, appeared in the court on behalf of the writ petitioners, while Deputy Attorney General Bepul Bagmar represented the state. 

Advocate Shishir Manir said, “An accused is taken to the condemned cell directly soon after being given the death sentence by a trial court. However, it takes six to 14 years more to finally dispose of the case in the High Court and the Appellate Division, while keeping the convict in the condemned cell.” 

“In this circumstance, we challenged Rule 980 of the Jail Code that relates to the confinement of death-row inmates in condemned cells. The court has directed the Inspector General of Prisons to submit a report within six months on the facilities provided to the prisoners in the condemned cell,” added the lawyer. 

Three death-row convicts-- Zillur Rahman from Chattogram Central Jail, Md Abdul Basir from Sylhet Central Jail, and Md Shah Alam from Cumilla Central Jail-- filed the writ petition in September last year challenging the legality of the actions of keeping them in the condemned cells. 

The convicts’ appeal petitions against their death sentences and death references are now pending before the High Court, said Advocate Shishir Manir.

“Three benches of the High Court are dealing with the death references sent for confirmation in 2015 and 2016. The death sentences pronounced this (2021) year by the trial court will be heard in 2026 according to the current ratio of disposal,” according to the writ petition.

During the hearing, writ petitioner's lawyer Advocate Shishir Manir told the HC that death-row convicts are kept in the condemned cells in a very inhumane and degrading manner which is contradictory to article 35(5) of the constitution.

Citing an Indian Supreme Court judgement, he said that no convict can be kept in death cell until his or her case is finally disposed of by the apex court.   

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