A total 447 cases filed with tribunal in first two months of 2021
Bangladesh’s lone Cybercrime Tribunal had to deal with just three cases when it was set up by the government in 2013. Eight years down the line, the tribunal is now struggling to cope with a caseload in the thousands.
As many as 447 new cases from across the country were filed with the tribunal in the first two months of this year, amounting to about five cases each day. Over a thousand cases were filed in 2020, a year that saw a rising number of cases and arrests under the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA).
The ICT Act was formulated alongside the formation of the tribunal in 2013. It was revised into the DSA in 2018.
According to data from the tribunal, the number of cases spiked sharply in 2015 and has been rising at an alarming rate since. Where 33 cases were filed with the tribunal in 2014, a total 152 were filed the very next year.
The number of new cases filed with the tribunal first crossed the 1,000 mark in 2019. The tribunal is currently dealing with a staggering 2,450 cases.
The tribunal has so far delivered judgments in 135 cases. The accused were found guilty and punished in just 21 cases, while the other 114 saw all accused acquitted as the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them.
Furthermore, the tribunal scrapped 124 cases during charge framing as there was no basis to continue the trials.
Of the 21 cases where charges were proved and punishments announced, only one was under the DSA.
One tribunal trouble for others
The lone tribunal, located in Dhaka, has been facing significant difficulty as it must deal with both charge framing and trials of DSA cases from across the country.
The trial process is hampered and delayed as investigating officers, witnesses, complainants and accused all must travel to the capital. Witnesses are often reluctant to bear the expenses of travel and accommodation, while the accused and complainants must also find lawyers in a city that may be unfamiliar to them.
Lawyers in Dhaka also tend to charge more.
Special Public Prosecutor Md Nazrul Islam Shamim said many of the problems would be resolved once the government established tribunals in all divisions of the country. The Law Ministry has already approved a proposal in this regard.