by Ali Mashraf
Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka hosted the second session of the Z I Chowdhury Memorial Lecture Series on May 25, 2017. The invited guest, Dr. Mokerrom Hossain, Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Virginia State University delivered the lecture on ‘American vis-a-vis Bangladeshi Criminal Justice System: An Overview’.
The lecture was inaugurated by Mr. Syed Masud Reza, Assistant Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka. Mr. Reza welcomed everyone at the lecture and briefly introduced the speaker of the event. He remarked that a comparative study of the criminal justice systems of USA and Bangladesh was crucial to improve the existing criminal justice system of Bangladesh.
Dr. Mokerrom Hossain, at the onset of his lecture, proclaimed that the criminal justice system, just like all other existing systems in our society, is a man-made system and was constructed in a way that we thought would serve our interests best. It is in this regard that he felt that criticism of the system was required to improve and modify it; something quite prevalent in USA which led to the generation of new ideas and reforms.
Additionally, Dr. Hossain felt that since the criminal justice system was our creation, it solely depended upon the intention of the lawmakers of a society and stated that a control freak society would always pass laws. Citing the example of the rise of gang culture in Dhaka city, he observed that it was the collective failure of the society that led to someone going astray. He noted that criminals were not outsiders, rather our own construction. As such, Dr. Hossain felt that it was essential to conduct more social science based research and ensure proper collection of data to receive the best output via which reforms could be made to the criminal justice system.
As the lecture progressed, Dr. Hossain talked about the three organizational structures of today’s criminal justice system- Law Enforcement or Police Department, Court System and Department of Corrections. He remarked that in USA, a judge was absolutely free to impart his/her own duty whereas in Bangladesh, we did not allow the structure for a judge to function freely. Mentioning the recent comments of the Chief Justice regarding the independence of both the higher and lower judiciary during the hearing of the appeal of the 16th Amendment case, he lamented over the fact that in our country, we did not allow the law to take its own course.
Dr. Hossain felt that such hindrance to the natural course of law was a key factor that led to widespread corruption in Bangladesh. Citing the example of remand, he said that this was a common feature in third world countries and was used as a tool by the police to extract information from defendants. He stressed upon the fact that remand was not carried out in due process in the presence of the counsel of a defendant. He believed that professional ethics and morality, something he discussed at length in his previous lecture, were quintessential in these instances.
Criticizing our criminal justice system, Dr. Hossain felt that it was a heavily centralized system whereas in USA, it was highly independent. He said that in USA, investigation was carried out in three levels- federal, state and local; and observed that the multi-level system ensured justice far better than our highly homogeneous system. Referring to the provisions of Miranda rights, other correctional measures besides jail time and the juvenile justice system, he mentioned that those were possible since the law enforcement system of USA was converted for public service.
While talking about reforms in our criminal justice system, Dr. Hossain felt that decentralization or blindly adopting provisions from the US criminal justice system were not the proper solutions. Rather, he proposed that public awareness and discourse as well as studies and research on these matters were indispensable to bring changes into the system. He said that under the influence of globalization and politics, criminal justice system would become more powerful in near future. Thus, he felt that criminal justice system needed to be more community oriented for the greater benefit of the people.
Towards, the end, Dr. Hossain urged the students to cultivate and develop newer perspectives through attaining knowledge on criminal justice system. Moreover, he insisted that students should not undermine their capacity, rather should think critically on these thought-provoking issues to generate ideas that will go on to reshape our criminal justice system one day.
The lecture ended with a short Q&A session and a vote of thanks by Mr. Masud Reza. All students and faculty members from Department of Law, University of Dhaka were present at the lecture and immensely benefited from the comparative analysis of the criminal justice systems of Bangladesh and USA. Law Faculty intends to host more lectures on pressing social and legal issues in future.
Ali Mashraf is a student of Department of Law, University of Dhaka and a Special Correspondent at The FutureLaw Initiative. To contact him, send an email to [email protected]