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High Court: Maximum 10 years in jail for children

  • Published at 07:33 pm March 5th, 2021
High Court-SC-court
File photo of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, which houses the High Court and the Appellate Division Dhaka Tribune

A child’s statement cannot be recorded as evidence, it says

The High Court has ruled that children cannot be jailed for more than 10 years upon conviction for punishable crimes.

The statement of a child cannot be recorded as evidence, the court mentioned in a verdict, according to media reports.

The full text of the verdict, containing 63 pages, was published recently.

On August 28, 2019, Justice Md Shawkat Hossain, Justice Md Ruhul Quddus and Justice ASM Abdul Mobin pronounced their summary verdict following an appeal filed by a child’s lawyer in Netrakona. 

The Speedy Trial Tribunal-4 of Dhaka in 2011 had handed down the death sentence to some people in a murder case under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act. The judgment was based on the confessional statement of the accused, who was 15 years and seven months old when the offence occurred.

Meanwhile, a juvenile court sentenced an accused child to 10-years imprisonment in the same case filed over the kidnapping and killing of a seven-year-old in Netrakona in February 2010, which was later challenged at the High Court.

In the full text verdict, the bench observed: "For offences punishable with death or life imprisonment, the maximum term of imprisonment against a juvenile offender or a person who became an adult during trial or arrest cannot exceed 10 years."

The confession of a child, the verdict reads, is in conflict with law under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. As a result, the child’s statement has no legal evidentiary value and, therefore, such a confession cannot form the basis of finding guilt.

After the juvenile court’s verdict was moved to the High Court, a panel of two judges found that the child’s confessional statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or CrPC, which can be used as evidence in trial.

The judges later forwarded the case to the chief justice as the recording of the child’s statement, the juvenile court’s jurisdiction and some other issues had raised concerns.  On October 2, 2018, the chief justice formed a larger bench comprising the three judges who finally overturned the child’s sentence.

SM Shahjahan and Md Abu Hanif stood for the child, with the bench hearing opinions of lawyers Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, MI Farooqi and Shahdeen Malik as amici curiae appointed by the court.