The crime took place a little over two weeks ago
Setting a unique precedent, a Bagerhat court has jailed a rapist for life while delivering the verdict in the case, after the trial started just a week ago.
Two weeks after the rape of a seven-year-old girl, Abdul Mannan Sardar, 50, was given life imprisonment by the district’s Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal 2 at 12pm on Monday — which became the quickest lower court verdict in history in a rape case.
Mannan, who is from Mongla upazila, was also fined Tk20,000 by District and Sessions Judge Md Nure Alam, confirmed the court’s bench assistant Gopal Chandra Pal. He will have to serve one more year of imprisonment in default.
The verdict has come hot on the heels of the recent nationwide protests demanding swift punishment to rapists and an amendment to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act that introduced the death sentence for rapists.
Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) Ranajit Kumar Mandal called the verdict the unprecedented in the history of Bagerhat courts and the country.
He said: “Police investigated the case with importance. They arrested the accused right after the crime, had the rape survivor’s medical test done, produced witnesses in court and submitted the charge sheet — everything was done on time.
"The statements of the rape survivor and the rapist were also recorded in line with the law. Because of these, the court did not take any extra time to complete the trial.”
However, Mannan's lawyer Leyakat Ali criticised the quick disposal of the case and claimed his client was denied justice. "We will move the High Court against this verdict," he added.
According to case details, neighbour Mannan, 50, had raped the seven-year-old girl at his home in Mongla’s Makordon village in the afternoon of October 3.
Later that night, police arrested him after the girl's uncle filed the rape case under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act.
On October 11, Mongla police Sub-Inspector and case investigation officer Bishwajit Mukharjee submitted the charge sheet against Mannan in the case. The court framed charges against him the next day.
Court official Gopal said the case was transferred to the tribunal for quick disposal due to its nature and sensitivity.
Testimonies of 16 witnesses, doctor, judicial magistrate, police officials and the investigation officer were recorded between October 13 and 14. The next day, accused Mannan defended himself.
On Sunday afternoon, the court heard the arguments of both sides for three hours and then fixed Monday to deliver the verdict, said APP Ranajit.
"Verdict in such a short time will be a precedent [for other cases],” he said, adding: “Violence against women and children have spiked around the country recently. Hopefully, this verdict will somewhat allay the anger among people regarding such cases taking a long time to reach conclusion.”
Protest and amendment
Amid widespread anti-rape demonstrations since the beginning of this month, the government on October 12 had approved the draft of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020 with a provision of the death penalty as the highest punishment for rape.
The next day, President Md Abdul Hamid promulgated the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, clearing the bill which took immediate effect.
Until then, the highest punishment for rape was life imprisonment.
The amendment to Section 9 (1) of the act from 2000 replaced the words “lifetime rigorous imprisonment” with “death penalty or lifetime rigorous imprisonment” for rape.