The investigative journalist was sued under the Official Secrets Act and the Penal Code
The confinement of Prothom Alo Senior Correspondent Rozina Islam, assaults at the Secretariat and filing of the case against her have triggered a massive outcry at home and abroad.
The case was filed under Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1923 and Sections 379 and 411 of the Penal Code 1980.
Section 3 of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act deals with penalties for spying.
It stipulates that a person shall be guilty of an offence under this section if s/he for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State (a) approaches, inspects, passes over or is in the vicinity of, or enters, any prohibited place; or (b) makes any sketch, plan, model, or note which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy; or (c) obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy.
The punishment could be death penalty or an imprisonment for a term that may extend to 14 years, if it appears that the offender’s purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State and was in the interest of or for the benefit of a foreign power. In any other case, the punishment would be imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years.
On the other hand, Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act describes an offence related to wrongful communication, etc., of information.
It says that a person shall be guilty of an offence under this section, if s/he having in possession or control any secret official code or password or any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information (a) wilfully communicates it to any person other than a person to whom he is authorized to communicate it, or a Court of Justice or a person to whom it is, in the interests of the State, his duty to communicate it; or (b) uses the information in his possession for the benefit of any foreign power or in any other manner prejudicial to the safety of the State; or (c) retains the sketch, plan, model, article, note or document in his possession or control when he has no right to retain it, or when it is contrary to his duty to retain it, or wilfully fails to comply with all directions issued by lawful authority with regard to the return or disposal thereof; or (d) fails to take reasonable care of, or so conducts himself as to endanger the safety of, the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, secret official code or password or information.
The punishment for such offence would be death, or imprisonment of a term that may extend to 14 years if it is committed directly or indirectly, in the interest of or for the benefit of a foreign power, or is in relation to any work of defence, arsenal, naval, military or air force establishment or station mine, minefield, factory, dockyard, camp, ship or aircraft or otherwise in relation to the naval, military or air force affairs of Bangladesh or in relation to any secret official code. In any other case, the punishment is imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
The accused may get bail under the two sections of the Official Secrets Act, according to her lawyer Ashraf-ul Alam. But the two sections under the Penal Code are non-bailable.
Section 411 of the Penal Code covers the guilt of the receiving of stolen property. It stipulates that whoever dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
On the other hand, Section 379 of the Penal Code describes the penalty of theft. It says that whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Deputy Secretary Sibbir Ahmed Osmani filed the case on Monday night with Shahbagh police for “theft and photographing” of official documents.
Journalist Islam was handed over to police by ministry officials around 8pm, nearly five hours after she had been confined at the office of Saiful Islam Bhuiyan, personal secretary to the Health Services Division secretary.
On Tuesday, a Dhaka court set Thursday for a hearing on the five-day remand plea against Rozina Islam and sent her to jail.