Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Contempt of court: The curious case of the chasm between India and Bangladesh

This is the second in an occasional series (the first was in the sister blog dealing with the war crimes trials) pointing to the chasm between the practice of Indian and Bangladesh courts towards critical commentary, and in particular the circumstances when criticism will result in criminal proceedings for 'contempt of court' (through what is known as 'scandalization of the court', distinguishable from other categories of contempt of court which this post is not referring to.*)

The courts in Bangladesh have said that 'fair criticism' is permitted, but have at the same time often taken an approach which narrowly construes what it considers to fall into this category.

As a result, it is difficult for journalists in Bangladesh to write commentary on the judiciary in Bangladesh without seriously risking contempt proceedings being issued against them (and their editors/publishers). This is particularly the case when third parties - usually lawyers - are ever so eager to bring any critical commentary to the attention of the courts, which is the case here.

This situation is however very different from that in India, where critical commentary - some of it very critical indeed - seems very much to be permitted, and does not create a risk of contempt proceedings. The situation in India seems to be getting closer to the one in England where the offense of contempt by 'scandalizing the court' has been repealed.

Today, for example, The Wire had published a pretty excoriating piece about the Indian Supreme court (equivalent to Bangladesh's appellate division) which should simply not be able to be published here, even in a toned down version.

Friday, August 21, 2015

RAB and the British blogger-killer arrest

The FIR lodged with
the police three months
On Tuesday, Bangladesh's supposedly elite counter-terrorist organization, the  Rapid Action Battalion organized a press conference to announce the arrest of three men, one of whom was a British citizen. At the press conference they claimed that the three had been arrested late the previous night or early that morning, and had confessed to membership of the militant organization, Ansarullah Bangla Team and to the killing of two of the four bloggers killed this year in Bangladesh.

The story the police gave about the arrest was quite detailed. One of the men was arrested on Monday evening, and he gave information that led onto the arrest of the other two men, including the British citizen Towhidul Rahman, outside Star Kebab in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

It has now come to light that the police story about his detention on early Tuesday morning is not likely to be true.

As reported in Al Jazeera, the security guard and the caretaker of the building in which Tawhidul Rahman lived confirm that he was picked up on 28 May 2015, three months earlier, by people who introduced themselves as people from the 'administration/detective branch'. Moreover, later that day, the sister filed a 'general diary' (known here as a GD, and is the means by which the public provide the police with information about a crime or possible crime)with the police station informing them of her brother's 'arrest' by 'DB officers', and five days later filed a First Information Report - known here as an FIR, which is the way in which a criminal case starts) with similar information.