The cabinet has approved the draft of "Evidence (Amendment) Act-2022" allowing digital evidence in court.
The draft also incorporates changes to the old act, deterring the previous scope for raising questions about the character of the plaintiff in rape and sexual assault cases.
The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday gave the go-ahead to the draft.
After emerging from the meeting, Cabinet Division Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam briefed journalists on the draft that was tabled by the Law and Justice Division.
"As you know, courts went online during the Covid-led shutdown, and all the evidence and testimonies were recorded digitally. But there was no direct provision in our Evidence Act for such digital trial procedures. If someone appealed to the upper court challenging the procedure, some legal complications could have surfaced," he said.
"Besides, there had been talks about the admissibility of digital evidence for a long time," he added.
The secretary said if the court thinks that there is something objectionable somewhere in the evidence, or if someone objects, then forensic examination of that evidence can be carried out so that no one can present fake or forged evidence digitally.
"There are no ways of getting away with any manipulated evidence. Because if you do forensic, you will be caught subsequently. Document forensics takes just a few minutes.
"In the case of video, it takes a little long. We have adequate laboratories and enough upgraded technologies in the country. The government will conveniently distribute these in different places."
The cabinet division secretary said, "There is no way to twist. If anyone twists, we have section 211 of the Penal Code and there is section 57 of the Digital Act, and action will be taken accordingly."
Anwarul Islam said the new act will drop the provisions in the old one that allowed questions about the character of the plaintiff in rape and sexual abuse cases.
He said, "In order to cross-examine the victim, decency must be maintained, and the court will decide what sort of questions are required for the trial."
Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act states that when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.
And section 146 (3) states, "To shake his credit, by injuring his character, although the answer to such questions might tend directly or indirectly to criminate him or might expose or tend directly or indirectly to expose him to a penalty or forfeiture."
Human rights activists and lawyers had been calling for amendments to the colonial-era law, which is contradictory to the Constitution.
Tk70,000 special allowance for CJ after retirement
Besides, the cabinet in principle approved the draft of "Bangladesh Supreme Court Judges (Leave, Pension and Privileges) Act-2022" with a provision of a monthly special allowance of Tk70,000 for the chief justice.
The proposed law will replace the "Supreme Court Judges (Leave, Pension and Privileges) Ordinance-1982".
"The draft law was brought to formulate a law repealing an ordinance of the military regime as per a judgement of the high court," said the cabinet secretary.
The special allowance will be given to meet expenses against different purposes like the retired chief justice's domestic help, car diver, house guard and maintenance of office cum residence, said Anwarul.
Besides, the Cabinet rejected another proposal to incorporate a provision in the draft law that the State would provide security to a retired chief justice till a certain period.
Confiscated property of war criminals to be treated abandoned
The cabinet gave the final approval to the draft of "Abandoned Houses (Supplementary Provisions) Act-2022" keeping a provision that the confiscated properties of a convicted war criminal would be treated as abandoned assets.
Besides, the final authority was given to the head of the government instead of the government in case of disposal of anything regarding high-valued buildings, said Anwarul.