A total of 216,398 drug-related cases are awaiting trial throughout the country, with the long delays leading to many accused peddlers being granted bail and returning to their illegal trade.
According to a report submitted by the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) to the Ministry of Home Affairs in April, 46,214 of the cases were filed by the DNC while the rest were filed by law enforcement agencies, Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and Bangladesh Coast Guard.
The cases were filed against suspects on charges of possessing narcotic substances such as cocaine, phensedyl, yaba, heroin, locally brewed alcohol, cannabis and drug injections.
Some of these cases were filed decades ago, and some investigation officers have retired from service before their cases could be resolved.
Concerned officials claimed the delays are being caused by a multitude of factors including insufficient or misplaced evidence, a slow pace of investigation, and misinformation given by suspects.
DNC Director (operation and intelligence) Deputy Inspector General Syed Towfiq Uddin Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune that the biggest obstacle to bringing the cases to court was the availability of witnesses.
“It is quite difficult to find a witness, even if the police have a warrant,” he said.
Once out of jail, some drug peddlers are resuming the illegal trade while a significant number of suspects have got themselves acquitted by manipulating loopholes of the law.
The DNC said that it was not possible to focus on every single case with the limited number of prosecutors.
To speed up the judicial process, DNC sources said the National Drug Control Board had decided to submit a proposal to the Ministry of Law in March 2013 for a separate court in which to hear drug-related cases.
To this end, the then DNC DG Mohammad Iqbal wrote to the Law and Justice Division in July of the same year to urge action to clear the backlog. He wrote that around 48,000 drug-related cases were pending and that many suspects in the cases were re-engaging in the drugs trade after receiving bail.
With no progress made to improve the situation for the next three years, incumbent DNC DG Khandaker Rakibur Rahman sent another letter to senior home secretary on June 29, 2016 to expressed his own concerns.
“If the pending drug-related cases are not resolved quickly, drug-related crimes will continue to increase in the future,” he wrote.
DNC Additional Director General Parimal Kumar Dev told the Dhaka Tribune that the Directorate of Narcotics Control had contacted the concerned ministry, requesting them to handle drug-related cases through separate courts.
“This proposal has been sent to the Law Ministry and we are waiting for an update on the matter. We firmly believe that a separate court will accelerate the trial of drug-related cases, and the criminals will face punishment,” he said.
According to police, the majority of crimes committed in Bangladesh are related to illegal drugs. A recent statistical report shows 56,187 cases related to narcotics were filed across the country between January and July this year.