Justice Delayed: The Salman Shah Case

21 years on, the Salman Shah case is still pending while his ‘killers’ roam free. Several evidences, Naraji Petitions and two decades later, the court is yet to conclude whether he took his own life or was murdered. Such delay in disposal of this case sheds light to the regular obstacles faced by litigants in a criminal case in Bangladesh.

There are way over 1 lakh criminal cases pending in the courts right now as I write this article. As of 2015, 3,109,173 cases were pending in different courts in which 56.4% were criminal cases.

Salman Shah’s case started back in 1996 and still running as we go well into 2017. The renowned Bangladeshi actor was found hanging on a ceiling at his Eskaton Apartment and was presumed to have committed suicide. His father filed a unnatural death case but later claimed that his son was infact murdered. Evidences collected from the spot suggest the latter.

From the inception of the case, the finger of suspicion was pointed towards Salman’s wife by his well wishers. But the court was not convinced as it lacked concrete proof. The Court subsequently ordered an investigation to the CID.

The CID submitted a final report after its investigation before the court in 1997. In 2003, Salman Shah’s father applied for a revision against after which the court ordered a judicial probe. The probe report was submitted on August 2014 before the court which found no evidence of Salman Shah being murdered.

In February 10 2015, the actor’s mother filed a Naraji (No Confidence) Petition against the judicial probe report. She claimed that Salman did not have any marks on his throat to prove it was a suicide. A second judicial probe was ordered. However the report didn’t show any surprising results.

In the following year, Salman’s mother’s Naraji petition was accepted and a Dhaka Court transferred the case to the Police Investigation Bureau (PBI) for further investigation. The report came back with the same data.

When all hopes were given up, a new turn in the series of events raised eyebrows. A confession was publicly made by a suspect. A video went viral on facebook on August 8, 2017.

A woman named Ruby in her facebook video alleged that her husband and Salman Shah’s wife was directly involved in the murder. Thanks to the use of modern technology, the case may now see a different outcome.

Her statement is a valid confession under s.30 of the Evidence Act 1872. A confession was made before too by another suspect named Rezvi Ahmad, on the initial days of the case His statements also highlighted the involvement of Salman’s wife in the murder.

It is expected that Ruby’s confessional statement would be considered as relevant evidence by the court. This would further assist the ongoing investigation to speed up the process. Despite the long wait, the case is presumably taking its final turn.

However this is just one example. There are thousands of cases like this stuck in a loop in the name of criminal proceeding. The time prescribed in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 for each stage of a trial is only limited to theory.

In practice, the rules are hardly acknowledged. Often the accused party applies for repeated stay in the case so that it gets difficult to find witnesses and evidence as days go by.

The pile of criminal cases keep increasing along with the immeasurable suffering of the affected. One has to face so many hurdles that at one point they choose to let it go. The light at the end of the tunnel keeps fading away for a litigant at every stage of a criminal trial. If this goes on, the oppressed would never have the courage to seek justice.