In the first nine months of this year, more than 60 percent of the accused got acquitted in drug-related cases, and narcotics control officials blame the poor conviction rate mainly on the faulty charge sheets and a lack of witnesses.
The scenarios were almost similar in the previous two years.
In the circumstances, most of the criminals are going back to the drug trade once they come out of jail, police and narcotics control officials say.
Different courts delivered judgments in 11,862 drug cases between January and September this year, acquitting 9,231 of the 15,212 accused, show data from the Police Headquarters. Around 55 percent suspects were acquitted in 2015 and 56 percent last year.
That happened despite tests, carried out at the labs of Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), confirmed that evidence found in possession of the suspects were indeed drugs, said officials from the department.
In the first six months of this year, the department examined 28,000 samples of evidence collected from law enforcers and all the tests were positive for drugs, Dulal Krishna Saha, chief forensic expert at DNC central laboratory, told The Daily Star.
“This forensic test result is considered prime evidence in any case,” he said.
DNC Additional Director General (intelligence) Nazrul Islam Shikder said his department started studying verdicts in narcotics cases this year.
Investigators often in the charge sheets mention that the suspects are accused of possessing yaba or phensedyl instead of saying amphetamine and codeine, he said, adding that such “mistakes” weaken the charge sheets.
In many cases, investigators are “bribed” to prepare faulty charge sheets.
Talking to these correspondents on November 13, a female drug trader, who had been facing six cases, said she got acquitted in three of the lawsuits after “spending” Tk 90,000 and several weeks behind bars.
Wishing not to be named, the woman from Karwan Bazar Railway slum said she again got involved in drug rackets immediately after coming out on bail.
Most of those freed from jail on acquittal do the same thing, Ahsan Ur Rahman, DNC deputy director (Intelligence), said.
The dearth of witnesses and lengthy legal procedures are also helping criminals go scot-free.
Sometimes, the legal procedures are so lengthy that when DNC officials are asked to appear before courts as witnesses, they already go into retirement by that time. Some of them are not even notified about the hearing dates as they no longer remain at work, said DNC officials, adding that usually, each of the department officials is witness in 80 to 100 cases.
DNC ADG Nazrul Islam said, “We are writing to magistrates requesting them to hear multiple drug-related cases on a single date so that a DNC officer can give witness statements in a number of cases on the same day.”
Sohely Ferdous, assistant inspector general of the police headquarters, told The Daily Star that on many occasions, they lost track of witnesses as trials began long after the suspects had been arrested.
At times, the investigation officers get transferred before the trial begins, she said.
Moreover, many witnesses do not want to testify against powerful and influential suspects for fear of life while others give false statements for money, the officer added.
Some DNC officials also blame public prosecutors for the poor rate of conviction in drug-related cases.
Contacted, Tapash Kumar Pal, additional public prosecutor (Addl PP) at Metropolitan Sessions Judges Court, however, refuted the allegation.
It’s the law enforcers, who do not produce witnesses properly, he said.
Police bring some “floating” witnesses who remain traceless during trial, said Tapash.
“In some cases, the witnesses in cross examination informed us that they know nothing about the cases,” he said, adding that the accused take advantage of such “loopholes” and get acquitted.”We have nothing to do about it.”
Besides, he said, they also receive faulty investigation reports, which help accused go unpunished.