The government has set up 41 new tribunals across Bangladesh to expedite trials in cases filed over the torture of women and children.
A gazette notification was published in the first week of April. Already 41 posts of district and sessions judges and 205 posts of assistants have been created for the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals.
The jurisdiction of the newly-formed tribunals has been fixed while the authority of some of the other courts has been overhauled.
The government has asked to transfer cases filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act from other courts to the tribunals by the first week of May.
A number of the new tribunals have already started functioning. In Dhaka, three out of the four new tribunals have started operations from April 26. These courts have been sharing space with previous ones as new office rooms are yet to be designated.
Previously, a total of 54 Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman Tribunals were functioning in 46 districts. The government decided to increase the number of tribunals to reduce case backlog and shorten the victims’ wait for justice.
Of the new tribunals, 12 have been set up in as many districts. They are – Rajbari, Gopalganj, Magura, Feni, Lakshmipur, Khagrachhari, Lalmonirhat, Joypurhat, Chuadanga, Meherpur, Pirojpur and Bhola.
These districts did not have Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals.
Twenty-nine new tribunals have also been set up in 22 districts with case backlog. In Dhaka four tribunals have been added to the existing five. Chattogram also got four more tribunals on top of its five other tribunals.
Two tribunals have been formed each in Nilphamari, Khulna, Rangpur, Brammanbaria and Habiganj while Jashore, Noakhali, Kishoreganj, Jamalpur, Cox's Bazar, Cumilla, Gaibandha, Bagerhat, Naogaon, Sirajganj and Nilphamari get one each.
According to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000, there will be tribunals at every district court to try the cases filed under the act. As the number of existing tribunals was insufficient, the Supreme Court in 2015 recommended setting up new ones.
The Law Ministry then took the initiative and the Public Administration Ministry approved that. In August next year, the Finance Ministry approved the proposal. After prime minister's approval, the Law Ministry moved to form the tribunals.
Law Minister Anisul Huq told Parliament in February that by December 2017, the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals were dealing with 165,000 cases.
Of them, around 44,000 were pending with tribunals in Dhaka division, 43,000 in Chattogram division, 16,000 in Rajshahi, 19,000 in Khulna, 10,000 in Barishal, 11,000 in Sylhet division and 20,000 Rangpur division.