Every law is meant to serve the people, but the DSA does seem to be the opposite
The deplorable death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in police custody, quite rightly, caused anger and uproar across the country. Not only that the tragic incident also drew condemnation from many countries and human rights organizations. This has captured international negative headlines once again.
There are two very important aspects with respect to the death of 53-years-old Mushtaq. One is his death in police custody while the other one is a draconian law, Digital Security Act (DSA), 2018, under which Mushtaq had been detained since May, last year. Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore was also detained with him under DSA and Kishore is also reportedly seriously ill in jail.
Any death in police custody is a serious matter. More so, when someone with Mushtaq's stature is detained under a controversial law.
So, even in Bangladesh with a poor record of human rights, rule of law and good governance, this issue should be given utmost importance with respect to prompt and transparent investigation. And, those responsible must be held accountable to reassure the citizens as well as to send a positive message to the outside world to protect the fragile image of the country.
During his 10-month detention, Mushtaq applied for bail for no less than half a dozen times. But, his bail petitions were rejected every time which could indicate that charges against him were serious. But, on the surface, that does not seem to be the case. It is really heartbreaking that in Bangladesh a convicted murderer can walk free after being pardoned while a decent educated man like Mushtaq cannot even secure conditional bail. The authorities should get to the bottom of this as well.
As far as the DSA is concerned, this piece of legislation has been a nonstarter since the beginning. Prior and after the enactment of the law, it has been facing stiff resistance both at home and abroad. The principal argument against the law has been that it gives sweeping power to the law enforcers to arrest somebody without any arrest warrant. There are some other loopholes as well which can be grossly misused.
Having looked at the cases filed so far under this infamous law, one can be forgiven to conclude that this has been enacted mostly to silence the dissenting views and harass people which runs counter to the Constitution of the country.
Every law is meant to serve the people. But, the DSA does not seem to follow the higher principles for which laws are meant to be enacted. Therefore, this piece of legislation must go. If for whatever reasons, the DSA cannot be repealed, it must be amended removing the controversial clauses to ensure freedom of expression and freedom of speech that are ensured by the Constitution of the country.