Muhammad Akkas Khan Swapan, a 35-year-old madrasa teacher from Kalkini upazila in Madaripur, was living an uneventful life until three months ago, when his world was turned upside down.
On August 8, a shocked and confused Akkas was arrested by police having been convicted in a narcotics case filed eight years earlier by Gazipur District and Sessions Court in Joydebpur.
Akkas’ family and neighbours were also shocked after learning about his arrest and conviction in the case.
Police said Akkas had been absconding “for a long time”. However, when his family went to Gazipur to collect the case documents, it turned out that he was not even enlisted as a suspect.
A little more investigation revealed that Akkas had been a victim of a fake arrest warrant. However, he was still kept in prison until the confusion was cleared up.
“I had to spend 13 days in jail without committing any crime,” said Akkas said, who feared he might have made enemies in his locality. “I am living from hand to mouth. My family will suffer a great deal if something happens to me.”
As Akkas discovered to his cost, anyone can be put in jail even if he or she is not accused in any case.
Police sources said the phenomenon is not entirely uncommon. In most cases, people who get arrested with forged warrants are simply the victims of jealousy or personal feuds.
The process is facilitated by brokers at courts and dishonest officials who forge warrants in exchange for bribes.
It takes time to scrutinize arrest warrants to determine if they are real, and then at least another week for the victims to get out of jail.
Akkas, a resident of Paschim Saheb Rajapur village in Kalkini, had to stay in prison for 14 days before a Madaripur court found that the warrant issued against him was forged.
Police say there is no way for them to check the authenticity of warrants they receive via post office. In fact, it is not possible to be sure about an arrest warrant without examining its case documents.
If a case is filed with the police force or a court of a different district, it takes even longer for a court to receive and scrutinize the case document. During that time, the arrested person has to stay in jail.
The court gives the final call on whether an arrest warrant is forged or not; police can do nothing but implement the court’s order.
Assistant Sub-Inspector Abul Bashar of Kalkini police station arrested Akkas at Hamed Bazar in Kalkini on August 8. The warrant he was shown mentioned Case No 3 (10) 2009 filed with Joydebpur police and Sessions No 19/10.
Kalkini police produced Akkas before a Madaripur court, where a senior judicial magistrate sent him to jail.
His relatives went to Gazipur to collect the case document. First they went to Joydebpur police station and learned that Case No 3 (10) 2009 was filed over a Tk11 lakh cheque forgery. The case number at the District and Sessions Court was 19/10.
The case plaintiff is Md Mahbub, from Barotopa village in Sreepur Upazila. He accused Dhaka’s Sabujbagh resident Mormujul Haq Rubel and Uttara resident Barendra Textiles Ltd Managing Director Md Rejaul Karim in his case.
The court had already delivered its verdict in the cheque fraud case. A fake warrant was prepared for Akkas and was sent to Madaripur.
Akkas’ nephew Md Saiful Islam and other relatives contacted lawyer Akter Hossain after collecting a copy of the warrant from Gazipur court.
“We went to Joydebpur police station with the case number, but police could not give us much information as the case was filed in 2009,” Saiful said. “We contacted Akter Hossain, a lawyer from Gazipur. He collected the case documents from the court.”
Akter said he learned that the case’s verdict had already been delivered.
“No-one by the name of Muhammad Akkas Khan Swapan was accused in the case filed over cheque dishonour,” he said. “The court released Akkas after we informed it of the matter.”
The lawyer said it was a forged warrant. “I never came across such incident. I was surprised,” he said. “Brokers at the court are involved with it. Some lawyers may also be involved.”
Kalkini police ASI Bashar said arrest warrants from other districts are first sent to the police superintendent’s office. The district police chief receives them and forwards them to the relevant officers-in-charge.
The OCs register the warrants and task sub-inspectors or assistant sub-inspectors to arrest the suspects.
Bashar said the same procedure was followed in Akkas’ case. “The arrest warrants look similar. Police do not have the opportunity to scrutinize which ones are real,” he said.
“I produced him before Madaripur court after arresting him. His relatives went to Gazipur to look into the case. I later heard that the warrant was a fake one.”
Police Headquarters Deputy Inspector General (admin) Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun said it was not possible to scrutinize arrest warrants.
“If the arrest warrant is for someone from the same district, then it is directly sent to police stations through the proper police channel,” he explained.
“But arrest warrants from other districts are first sent to the police superintendent’s office via post. The police superintendent then takes steps. It is very difficult – almost impossible – to examine each and every arrest warrant.”
The IGP said anyone arrested under a fake warrant has to move the court to be freed.
“A quarter is involved with this [forging warrants]. Police will help scrutinize to ascertain authenticity of arrest warrants if anyone complains,” he said.
However, lawyer Hasnat Qaiyum disagreed with the IGP.
“Police certainly have the option to scrutinize the warrants,” Qaiyum said. “It is also police’s responsibility to bring the forgers to book. Why would an innocent man languish in jail? It certainly is saddening.”
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune