Things that make you to Think
The Story, published at Xtra, gives an insight of the police ordinance which is supposedly going to change the general citizens’ future.
A new law for Bangladesh police force is waiting for approval in the cabinet of ministers which is supposed to develop the law-enforcement and enhance its services to the people.
But the draft of this law disperses different views among the police officials, legal experts and human rights activists. The police force will be an ‘autonomous force’ as the police will no longer be liable to the government, people will be dominated by this force as there is restriction to file a complaint or a case against a police official, whereas facilities entitled to the police in the proposal have a positive sign.
Thus the question arises whether people of this country will benefit from the changes in the police ordinance and get better service from the force or they will face more harassment and domination by the force.
The draft of police ordinance 2007 was hung up since 2007 after assembling people’s opinion through seminars and discussions. In August 2012, the home ministry sent letter to the chief of police asking to resend the police ordinance 2007 with modification. A draft of the law was sent to home ministry from the police headquarter this year after some modifications.
The context of police ordinance 2007
The Police Act formulated during the British colonial period in 1861 is still effective in Bangladesh.
A police commission was set up in 1840 and on its recommendation the Police Act (Act V of 1861) was passed by the British Parliament. Under this Act a police force was created in each province of British India and placed under the control of the provincial government. The administration of the police force of a province then vested upon an officer ranked as Inspector General of Police (IGP) while a district was placed under the Superintended of Police.
Later, after the partition of this sub-continent in 1947, the police force in Bangladesh was first named East Bengal Police and then East Pakistan Police which continued to function as provincial police force in the same lines as during the British rule.
After the liberation war, in 1973, throughout this Act, the words ‘government’ and ‘taka’ were substituted for the words ‘provincial government’ and ‘rupees’ respectively by section 3 and 2nd Schedule of the Bangladesh Laws (Revision and Declaration) Act, 1973 (Act No. VIII of 1973) while under the same line the words ‘any part of Bangladesh’ were substituted for the words ‘province or place or any part of any province or place’.
According to the police officials, a new police law will say goodbye to this British constituted Act while it will also bring more efficiency and development to the police force and a better service to the people.
The idea to form a new law for our police force to adapt the current situation comes from the realisation to leave the British colonial law, says the former IGP Muhammad Nurul Huda, adding that, now such law is necessary to the police force in our country.
Huda believes the new law is necessary because the patterns of crime have changed from what it used to be before.
The new law, according to Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of human rights organisation Odhikar, will turn the police force into an autonomous body. He fears that such laws are prepared in many countries on excuse of ‘global war against terrorism since post 9/11 circumstances, Bangladesh is here just a specific local country case.’
‘Following the post 9/11 context, all Bangladesh government in different times have applied different prescriptions of war against terrorism. A good example is the elite force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), alleged for extrajudicial killing, and now the police force is going to be given more powers and freedom,’ Adilur says to Xtra.
What the Ordinance says
The draft of the Police Ordinance 2007 consists of 15 chapters which include 163 sections and hundreds of sub-sections. The draft prepared by a 14-member committee is chaired by ASM Shahjahan, former IGP and also the former advisor of caretaker government.
The chapter 2 of the draft points out the responsibilities and duties of the police force to the people.
Under the section 7(1) in chapter 3 of this police ordinance, the police force will be vested upon a police officer titled as the Chief of Police who will be recruited by the government. The government will recruit the police chief out of three officers suggested by the 11 members of National Police Commission (NPC) which will be formed under the section 37 in chapter 4 of the ordinance.
The chairperson of NPC will be the Minister of the Home Ministry while there are two members from ruling party, two from the opposition party, four non-political personality, the secretary of the home ministry, and the chief of police as the secretary of the NPC, according to the section 38 of chapter 4.
According to section 6 in chapter 3, all of the institutions of police force will be considered as Police Service under this ordinance.
The responsibility to inspect the police service will be under the government but the government will not give the power to any person, official, authority or Court to control the police official which is not related to the ordinance, the section 10 says.
Section 7 states that the chief of police will execute all powers according to this ordinance including the management, administrative and economic powers which are given to the secretary of the government.
According to section 11, the chief of police, IGP, additional IGP, deputy IGP, additional deputy IGP, senior superintendent of police and superintendent of police will execute their own power as it is prescribed in the ordinance.
Under section 71 of chapter 8, to investigate ‘severe’ allegation against the policemen of the police force, the government will establish a ‘Police Complain Authority’.
Section 145 under chapter 15, says without a written complain approved by any officer who is given power by the government, no complain will be brought into criminal procedure against any police officer.
However, section 146 says, if a case will not be filed to Court within six months from the date of occurrence and from the date of submitting the written complain to the complain authority, no Court will accept any case under this ordinance for the wrongdoing or crime of the police officer.
No police officer will be punished or fined if an offence was not deliberate or having no motive under section 144.
A police tribunal will be established according to section 84 of chapter 9 while the section 87 says an accused police officer will be brought into the tribunal for the police officer’s negligence of duties, disobedience and offensive behaviour, unapproved absence, cowardice, misuse of power and for such activities which do not look good for an officer.
A Police Welfare Bureau will look into providing medical services, housing, scholarship to the dependent of a policeman and providing support to an accused policeman.
The chapter 12 describes that police force has given power to instruct people in organising rally or procession, provide license to control rally or processions, power to close rally if any condition of the license is violated, power to ban on any destructive or abusing weapons, power to control indiscipline activities in recreation places, power to create obstacle in any emergency on roads or open place, power to search any suspect or vehicle etc.
Despite of several times attempts, the higher rank police officers were not found available for interviewing regarding the Police Ordinance.
A senior police officer tells Xtra, the allegation, that the police force will be independent and get more power, is not correct because if this law will be executed the police force will be free from political and administrative intervention which causes a huge obstacles in our duties.
The officer, in condition of anonymity, says that under this law the police recruitment, transfer and promotion will not be biased while at present police officers need to think a hundred times to do their duties due to acute political and administrative controlling power over the police force.
This is an open secret that a lot of corruption continues in every sector like recruitment, transfer, promotion and others in the police force. But how the police force could work properly if the police are bound to work, theoretically and practically, under the dual control – political and administrative intervention, he says.
So the Police Ordinance 2007 is a hope to bring something new for the police force, he adds.
‘In addition, there is also a conflict between admin cadre and police cadre as the administration is not willing to give more power to the police department, however, the true fact is that if we are becoming controlled by political and administrative intervention then how can we do police work?’ states the senior officer.
He suggests that a law could not change everything within a very short period. The training method of police force should also be developed at the same time otherwise the law will exist only on paper.
Now, the people do not get proper service from the police force, and they will not until the internal mechanism is developed and a strong as well as neutral monitoring cell is established, he concludes.
Read Dirty Uniform, published at Xtra, that reveals how police atrocities and the complex web of corruption are often overlooked in absence of independent investigation into the allegation against state forces.