In April 2020, police started a drive to arrest an absconding convict named Md Kamrul Islam. "I came to know that I had been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in a case filed over SSC certificate forgery. I had been absconding ever since," Kamrul said.
"Advised by a lawyer, I then filed a writ petition in the High Court. The verdict that the High Court delivered on Thursday in response to the writ gave me a huge sense of relief. Else I would be in jail today without any guilt," Kamrul was narrating his story.
He was completely unaware of being prosecuted and convicted in a fraud case following a wrong investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
He came to know about the matter six years after he was sentenced to a 15-year imprisonment and that too when the police launched a drive to nab him in April last year. And since then, he had been on the run to avoid getting arrested on charges of crimes with which he was not even remotely linked.
In the meantime, he filed a writ petition in the High Court seeking justice.
Finally, Kamrul could heave a sigh of relief after the High Court on Thursday quashed the lower court judgement that had imposed a 15-year imprisonment on him on the basis of a flawed investigation by the ACC.
Kamrul's lawyer Minhazul Haque Chowdhury termed the incident of an innocent man being victimised by wrong investigation on the part of a major government agency like the ACC "unprecedented".
The High Court in its verdict directed the ACC to re-investigate the case and initiate departmental proceedings against Mahfuz Iqbal, deputy director of the ACC's Noakhali coordinated district office, who wrongly filed charges against an innocent Kamrul in the case.
The court also said if innocent Kamrul applies to the ACC for compensation, it would consider it. Kamrul now works as an office assistant in the Noakhali District Judge's Court.
The High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman pronounced the judgement, disposing of a writ petition filed by Md Kamrul in October 2020.
According to the writ documents, Shahidul Alam, then prosecuting inspector of the Cumilla Region of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, filed a case in January 2003.
According to the case, Kamrul Islam, son of Abul Khair of East Rajarampur village under Noakhali Sadar police station, got admitted to Maizdi Public College in the 1998-99 session by creating/collecting a fake transcription and testimonial supporting his passing the SSC examination from Noakhali High School in the second division by obtaining 576 marks.
However, this allegation is actually against another Kamrul Islam, son of Abul Khair of West Rajarampur, the writ petition said, adding the victim Kamrul was born on 15 January 1990 and passed his SSC from Harinarayanpur High School in 2006. He could not get admitted to a college due to poverty.
The case was investigated by ACC deputy director Mahfuz Iqbal, who submitted the chargesheet on 28 November 2013, accusing Kamrul Islam of East Rajarampur village, the writ further stated.
After finishing the trial in the case, Noakhali Special Judge Shirin Kabita Akhter on 26 November 2014 sentenced Kamrul Islam to 15 years in prison and fined him Tk30,000 under three sections of the Penal Code for forging, using and possessing forged documents.
Innocent Kamrul Islam told TBS that he knew nothing about the case from beginning to end. The matter came to light when the police in mid-April last year started a drive to arrest him.
Kamrul said he joined the Laxmipur court on 8 July 2008 as an MLSS. Later, he was transferred to Noakhali. He has been working as an office assistant at Noakhali court since 29 January 2019.
After the writ petition was filed, the High Court issued a rule on 5 November last year and sought an explanation from the ACC. In response to the rule, the ACC admitted its mistake. The ACC told the court on 26 January this year, "This is a bona fide mistake".
"ACC to have more acceptability, if all its officials disclose their accounts"
ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan was present in court when the verdict was announced.
He told the court before the verdict that it was the first charge-sheet in the life of the investigating officer. In response, the court said the officer was supposed to do the investigation properly as it was his first assignment.
The court also said the whole organisation (ACC) becomes questionable due to mistakes by one or two officials. There are some places where officials are expected by people to be like angels, it observed.
At one stage, the ACC lawyer said, "We want a fresh trial. Let the real man (accused) come forward. We're extremely, extremely sorry. The entire commission feels sorry, embarrassed. We do not want to get away with all the cases by talking about Section 31 (bona fide mistake) of the ACC Act."
Mentioning that the commission is doing a lot of good work, the court said one or two incidents like this, however, give rise to negative news and create a negative situation all across the country.
Khurshid Alam Khan said, "We contested the case of Jahalom. But we're not contesting here. We've accepted it."
At one stage, the court said if all officials, including the commissioners, of the ACC disclose their accounts, then the commission will have enhanced acceptability among people.