The judge's observation – a rape case should not be recorded if 72 hours have passed following the crime – in the Raintree rape case has blotted judiciary, leading to a risk of mistrust in the society about court, the Human Rights Forum Bangladesh said on Sunday.
For this, the coalition of 20 human rights and development organisations in a virtual press conference requested the High Court to take a suo motu initiative to ensure accountability of the judge who had drawn criticism for her observation in the case.
The forum in a statement said, "The chief justice has suspended the judicial powers of the judge and we hope this action will not be temporary."
Shaheen Anam, executive director at Manusher Jonno Foundation, said, "In verdicts of women and children repression prevention cases, we now see questioning of characters of rape victims and their criticism by disregarding the merits of the cases."
"In such cases, the accused exercise their influence in many ways. I think the verdict in the Raintree case was also a biased one," she also said.
Human rights activist Dr Hamida Hossain said, "During the verdict announcement in the Raintree case, the character of the two victim students was questioned. The judge said they swam in the swimming pool, but that is not a crime. I also swim regularly."
The judge who gave the verdict should have read the High Court's directives given during the verdict in a rape case of a Jahangirnagar University student, she also said.
"I do not understand who the judge is supporting. Every judge should be trained regarding sexual assault cases," she noted.
From the very begining, there had been doubts over getting justice in the much-talked-about Raintree rape case owing to dillydallying of law enforcers in accepting the case and the social and economic position of the accused, accoriding to the written statement read in the press briefing.
However, Human Rights Forum Bangladesh did not give any opinion on the acquittal of the accused in the case verdict.
The forum hopes that there is still the legal route to be covered and justice will be ensured.
But the judicial court's observations during the verdict are quite worrying. The court's statement conflicts with the existing legal system as well as justice and also goes beyond the court's jurisdiction. Above all, the court's statement challenges the progress that the county has so far made in ensuring justice against crimes such as rape, according to the forum.
The judge's observations also contradict the High Court's 18-point directive given in a verdict following a public litigation in 2016, the press conference said.
The human rights activists said it is very unfortunate that the court opined that the two victims were not credible because they were engaged in regular sexual relations.
Such a statement is not expected from the court. The count's job is to ensure justice by conducting the judicial process smoothly, rather than remarking on whether they are sexually active or not, they also said, adding that it is not the court's responsibility to issue a character certificate. Such remarks by the court will in fact discourage the victims from resorting to the law.
The forum said in most cases, rape victims in the country do not go for legal action out of fear, social stigma and humiliation in court.
For a long time, human rights activists have been vehemently opposing the tendency to take the victim's character to task in rape cases and have demanded the repeal of Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act that allows questioning the character of rape victims.
Recently, the law minister said the government is working on scrapping the section. At this time, such a statement of the court is in no way acceptable.
Human Rights Forum Bangladesh in the press conference placed seven demands. These include the permanent action against Mosammat Kamrunnahar, the judge in the Raintree rape case, abiding by the 18-point directive of the High Court in a rape case verdict and taking action for defiance, expediting the process of repealing Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act.