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Dhaka Tribune

Evidence Act in Bangla raises hope

‘Translating the laws into Bangla is a way of paying respect to the 1952 language martyrs’

Update : 21 Feb 2024, 04:07 PM

Increasing translations of the laws of the land and books relating to higher studies, delivering court verdicts in Bangla, and finding proper methods to inspire the younger generation to use the mother tongue are some of the demands of the time to save Bangla from decline or extinction.

While the apex court of the country has periodically taken some steps to promote Bangla in writing judgements, efforts to translate the British colonial-era laws into Bangla are inadequate and sluggish. Translating the laws into Bangla is a way of paying respect to the 1952 language martyrs and making the judicial process easier for litigants, say legal experts and academics.

As part of the move, the 150-year-old “Evidence Act of 1872” has been translated into Bangla, and the draft is now being scrutinized by the Bangladesh Law Commission.

The law came into force on September 1, 1872. Later, it was renamed the “Indian Evidence Act." After partition in 1947, the term “Indian” was abolished.

Since the emergence of Bangladesh, the Evidence Act of 1872 has been considered one of the “procedural laws” in the judicial system of the country. Civil and criminal cases are being tried in different courts based on this law. 

However, the Law Commission feels that with the change of era and time, the type and nature of crimes and social conflicts have been changing. In keeping with these changes, the existing Evidence Act and other laws need to be made more up-to-date. This is necessary so that justice can be ensured.

The draft is ready

According to Law Commission sources, the opinions of 350 stakeholders, including top law officers of the state, former judges of the High Court, district judges, university teachers and lawyers, were invited in the drafting of the Evidence Act. After reviewing their views, the commission formulated the draft and sent a copy of the draft to the Law Ministry.

A three-member commission headed by Law Commission Chairman and former Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque prepared the draft. The other two members are retired judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Abu Bakar Siddiqui and Justice ATM Fazle Kabir.

Important aspects

In view of the importance of the Evidence Act among the prevailing laws of the country, the draft has clarified the issue of confession.

The term “documents” has been redefined to include audio, video, digital documents, any type of digital data, computer programs, any type of disc or tape containing sound or images, any other type of data, digital signatures, certificates and digital communications. 

"The Evidence Act is one of the most complicated laws in Bangladesh. In practice, it is difficult for a lawyer or a court to properly understand the law of evidence because of its strong linguistic usage. Simplifying the text will make it easier to understand,” Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Humayan Kabir Pallab told Bangla Tribune.

The law was formulated in 1872 in the complexity of the English language. However, if it is converted into Bangla with the necessary amendments, it will create harmony between the court and lawyers as well as litigants. “It will also benefit the police in the investigation process. The easier a law is to understand, the more we can reap the benefits of that law,” he added.

Recommendations on the draft

The Law Commission has made some recommendations for legal changes in the proposed draft. It proposes to amend the provision relating to a dying declaration. 

The proposed clause states: "If the said person is apprehensive of his imminent death and if he has made the statement out of apprehension of said imminent death, then the statements are relevant, whatever be the nature of the proceedings in which the question arises as to the cause of his death.”

The Law Commission observes that it is necessary to legally present the evidence before the court by protecting the rights of the accused recognized in the Constitution and other existing laws. The Evidence Act is of immense importance in preventing the presentation of “arbitrary” and “irrelevant” evidence by various parties to the case and ensuring speedy justice by presenting evidence only on relevant matters. 

The draft says it is also necessary to ensure that different courts do not accept different kinds of evidence in similar cases. Moreover, considering the circumstances, courts need discretionary power to admit or exclude some evidence. An up-to-date law is essential for a proper reception and use of evidence in court to ensure that no one is deprived of his legal rights or no innocent person is convicted by decisions made on the basis of irrelevant and prejudicial evidence.

Chairman of the Law Commission and former Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque said: "We have prepared the draft of the law in accordance with the needs of the times. I hope it will be passed into law. On the other hand, we have already drafted the land-related laws and are working on some other important laws.”

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