For bailable offenses, bail should be granted as a right -- it should never be used as an instrument of punishment
The prisons of Bangladesh are packed with thousands of people who have not yet been convicted of a crime by a court of law, bail denied. Recently, prominent writer Mushtaq Ahmed, who was arrested under the DSA, died in custody after having been denied bail six times. Mushtaq is just one example among many.
The denial of bail, except in the case of the most egregious and extraordinary crimes, where the accused is seen as a danger, cannot be justified on legal grounds, and is downright unconscionable from a human rights point of view. To put it clearly: For bailable offenses, bail should be granted as a right -- it should never be used as an instrument of punishment.
Presumed innocent until found guilty -- that is the principle upon which the law should stand, and therefore it should not be within a judge’s discretion to grant or deny bail to someone whose guilt has not been established by the court, though certain conditions may be imposed upon the freedoms or the movement of the defendant while trial is being awaited.
For non-bailable offenses, that is, in cases where a person may be facing the death penalty or life imprisonment, the judge may exercise discretion, but in the case of bailable offenses, withholding bail can be seen, legally, as wrongful confinement. It is the latter -- this punitive use of the denial of bail -- that we are frequently seeing in Bangladesh. Unless we wish to slip into an abyss of human rights violations, there is a crying need to reform how our justice system interprets bail.