Two lower court judges have apologised to the High Court for placing actor Pori Moni on remand several times in a case filed under Narcotics Control Act.
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate's Court Judge Devobrata Biswas and Atikul Islam submitted two separate written explanations seeking apology this week to the Supreme Court registrar general's office, Deputy Attorney-General Abu Yahia Dulal confirmed.
Earlier on 8 September, the High Court (HC) has sought explanations from the two magistrates concerned as to why they permitted police to grill actor Pori Moni for the second and third times in a narcotics case. They were asked to submit their explanations within 10 days.
The High Court said the two magistrates will also have to appear before the court if they fail to submit satisfactory explanations while hearing the plea made by the human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).
The plea filed on 29 August challenged the continuous remanding of actor Shamsunnahar Smriti – known by her screen name Pori Moni – and sought the intervention of the High Court. The court set 15 September for the next hearing.
The court also summoned investigating officer Kazi Golam Mostafa, an inspector of the police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who is handling the actor's drug case, to appear in court with the case docket on 15 September.
Following the actor's arrest on 4 August night from her Banani residence during a raid by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a drug case was filed.
The actor was denied bail several times and remained imprisoned in custody for 27 days.
Against surmounting odds, on 21 August, in open court, Pori Moni begged her lawyers to submit another bail petition after the end of her third remand.
"Why doesn't anyone plea for my bail? I will lose my sanity, please plea for my bail," she begged.
Her lawyer filed bail plea on 22 August. But the court set 13 September to hold hearing on the plea.
The High Court (HC) at that time strongly denounced the role of the magistrate and police over putting actor Pori Moni on remand three times in the same case.
"It needs to be checked that what evidence the investigating officer presented with the remand pleas and the reasons why the court granted the remands," the court said.
Later, the hearing was brought forward to August 31 following an order of the High Court.
In case of a non-bailable offence, the arrested person is not entitled to bail, but that does not mean that the window is shut for the person. The person may be released on bail if there is no reasonable ground for believing that s/he has been guilty of an offence punishable with death. Women, children and sick persons enjoy additional privilege as they may be released on bail even if there is reasonable ground for believing that they have been guilty of an offence punishable with death.
This means even an accused cannot be denied their right to life and personal liberty. This is one of the fundamental rules for fair trial.
Pori Moni has not been granted relief in light of the law as two lower court judges refused to grant her bail exercising their discretionary powers.
The charge against Pori Moni – alleged possession of 18 litres of liquor and LSD– is non-bailable. So, she was not entitled to bail in accordance with Section 496 of the CrPC. But the offence she was accused of is punishable with a maximum jail term for five years – not the death penalty.
Sections 496 and 497 of the Code of Criminal Procedure uphold the constitutional provision stipulated in Article 32 that clearly says, "No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law."
So, in exercise of the discretionary power, the judges could have granted her bail under Section 497 of the CrPC. Moreover, being a woman she had the additional privilege to be granted bail.
But the lower court judges responded to the law enforcement agencies' plea and placed her in police custody for grilling and denied her bail. Even the judge kept pending her last bail prayer for 21 days without hearing.
On 26 August, the High Court had issued a ruling over the delay in hearing Pori Moni's bail petition and set 1 September for its hearing.
While the ruling was still pending, the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court granted bail to Pori Moni on 31 August. She was released from jail custody the next morning.