Child conviction by mobile courts illegal: High Court

Dhaka, March 11 – In a verdict, the High Court on Wednesday declared illegal and unconstitutional the child conviction and jail sentence by mobile courts — run by executive magistrates — across the country. At the same time, the HC bench scrapped the punishment of 121 children given by mobile courts earlier.
The HC bench comprising Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Md Mahmud Hasan Talukder delivered the verdict after hearing a suo moto rule issued by the court on October 31 of last year.
In its verdict, the HC bench declared the actions of mobile courts, convicting children and sentencing them on different charges, illegal and unconstitutional.
It also directed the authorities concerned to immediately release children convicted and sentenced by mobile courts.
The HC bench observed that the 121 children have become fully innocent following the cancellation of their punishment given by the mobile court. All should be aware so that they could not affect in any way in the future, the HC bench noted.
Barrister Abdul Halim with the assistance of Advocate Israt Hassan took part in the rule hearing while deputy attorney general Bipul Baghmar represented the state.
Later, Israt Hassan told reporters that the High Court declared illegal and unconstitutional the conviction and punishment given by the mobile court on the ground that the mobile court has no jurisdiction to punish any child. The mobile court punished 121 children inhumanly violating human rights, she added.
Earlier, on November 18, the HC directed the government to provide information on how many children under 12 years of age had been released from children development centres where they were detained after being convicted by mobile courts.
The government was also ordered to state how many children aged between 12 and 18 years, who were convicted by the mobile courts, had been released so far.
In addition, the government had been asked to provide information about the children’s guardians following their release.
On October 31, the same HC bench, in a suo moto move, had directed the government to immediately release children under the age of 12 years who were detained at the children development centres following their conviction by mobile courts.
The HC also granted six-months’ bail to convicted children within the age group of 12 and 18 years. These children must be released upon submission of bail bonds to the courts concerned, according to the HC order.
The HC bench came up with the directives following a news report published in a national daily under the headline ‘121 children got sentenced despite legal barrier’.
The country’s mobile courts have illegally jailed 121 children for six months to one year, and these children have been held at the children development centres in Tongi and Jessore, according to the report.
Supreme Court lawyer barrister Md Abdul Halim and advocate Ishrat Hassan placed the newspaper report before the HC bench.
Although the relevant juvenile laws do not permit it, 121 children were convicted of different charges by mobile courts. They were sentenced to jail for three months to a year by the mobile courts, the report added.
In its order, the HC bench asked the authorities concerned to submit the documentation for the cases involving the detained children.
The bench observed that these papers should be released subject to the satisfaction of the children’s court concerned.
The bench also asked the authorities to explain why convictions of the children by mobile courts should not be declared illegal.
After the final hearing on the rule, the HC bench yesterday came up with the verdict.
According to the Children’s Act, at least one juvenile court will be formed in a district or metropolitan area. If a case is filed against a child, the juvenile court will try him/her for whatever crimes he/she commits. – Staff Reporter