Mohammad Shaiful Alam:
Being a democratic country, Bangladesh has been trying to secure rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice,political, economic and social justice for its all citizento establish a crime and discrimination free society which is the spirit and ideology of our great liberation war. Crime is understood as harm against the humanity as well as the society.
Criminal justice system has been developed to control, deterring and mitigating crime or to sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts in the country.But the challenge to have a crime free society is still far away in the present situation. For which the social reformers brought change in their mind and took views that use of punishment or punitive measures are not enough for retribution and reform. Subsequently, they began to re-think regarding the matter and strongly start working on for the alternative as subfield of criminal justice.
Though Bangladesh has enacted various procedural and penal laws for administration of criminal justice system but due to lake of resources, delay, bribery, corruption, unfairness, dishonesty, abuse of power and using traditional system keeps us yet to reach to top stage of success. More than one lac cases are pending in both the lower and higher judiciary which creates huge backlog. Litigants are yet to suffer a lot to get proper treatment and adequate protection of law. In such a situation, being an alternative practice of restorative justice has great importance to reduce crime by bringing more offences to justice in our society.
Restorative justice is a voluntary, community based response to criminal behavior that attempts to bring together the victim, offender and the community, in an effort to address the harm caused by the criminal behavior (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005). It brings the victim and the offender in a safe and controlled environment to share their opinions, honestly discuss their problems and finally come to a mutual beneficial resolution. It requires truth telling, voluntariness, offender’s remorse and face to face encounter by which the problem can be solved in a win and win situation by restoring their position in the society as it was earlier.
At present crime situation in Bangladesh is highly alarming. A third world country like Bangladesh faces many problems in the society such as child abuse, women oppression, sexual harassment, eve teasing, family conflict, divorce , dowry, physical and mental torture and illegal possession etc. which can be prevented or solved easily by applying restorative justice process in a normative way. Restorative justice sheds light mostly on solving these issues so that both the rural and urban areas of the society can be benefited collectively and aftermath of the offence could be restored. Bangladesh has/had great success on it, the traditional Salish protha, NGO’s arbitration process and the village courts system are mostly similar with restorative justice process but due to poverty, discrimination, colorable exercise of political power and lake of skilled mediator or facilitator, we could not able to reach at its highest level of application. Bangladeshneeds to focus on it with full attention effectively because by using this process, burden of huge case backlog will be reduced and remedy will be given to the litigants within shortest possible time.
Government of Bangladesh has already been encouraged the people in using Restorative Justice and Alternative Dispute Resolution in compromising petty civil and criminal cases and family disputes.
We think Bangladesh would be more benefited by using restorative justice process in the field of family disputes. As reasons of most of the family disputes are misunderstanding, illiteracy, poverty, personal conflict, misguidance, unemployment and mental impairments etc. which are easily solvable and restorable in this process as these are within the sync of restorative justice. Problems like misunderstanding between husband and wife, restitution of conjugal life, dower and maintenance, rape, stalking, intimidation, physical and mental torture, child abuse, psychological torture,damage of crops, providing education facilities to children and domestic violence etc. need bit attention with care and worthy mediation from a skilled mediator or facilitator and we can mitigate these problems just applying restorative justice process and inspiring them for amicable settlement by creating awareness amongst the members of family through a skilled and professional facilitator who will handle the matter by maintaining ethical standard and professional mechanism. So that restoration of their relationships, proper reparation to the harm and victim- offender reconciliation can be done with victim satisfaction and offender accountability for restoration of a peaceful family life. For getting more success in family disputes Bangladesh should emphasis on family group conferencing (FGC). In the present context, it is very useful method and non-adversarial process to get early back through in family disputes. Bangladesh could also pay its attention more on problems of prison, school, child welfareand social justice in using restorative justice.
Restorative Justice is a soft and natural approach to justice focusing on the wanting of victims and offenders including the society. It fosters dialogue between the victim and offender and brings up the victim and offender in a position by which they can rehabilitate or reintegrate themselves in the society. Bangladesh may rethink to implement restorative justice at highest rate in those fields as mentioned herein above, which will help the country to reduceomnibus backlog of cases and huge social unrest caused so far.
Though Bangladesh has strong history of facing numerous man made problems and natural calamities but still it has been struggling to establish a democratic, dispensation of justice based and discrimination free society as enshrined by the constitution, Restorative Justice process may play a key role in achieving such goals of the country by providing social justice to its citizens and helping the criminal justice system by reducing the enormous backlog of cases. Bangladesh must take appropriate steps to implement restorative justice process so that a remarkable change may come up in the legal fraternity to meet the demand of fair justice.
Writer is an Assistant Attorney General for Bangladesh, E-mail: email@example.com