Penal Laws prohibit certain kinds of conduct, making particular acts or omissions unlawful and imposing sentence. In general, the prohibitions contained in criminal offences are concerned with protecting the public at large and the societal values of society. The Penal Laws that are now enforceable in Bangladesh include The Penal Code 1860, The Cattle Trespass Act 1871, The Arms Act 1878, The Explosive Substances Act 1908, The Prevention of Corruption Act 1947, The Anti-Corruption Act 1957, The Special Powers Act 1974, The Dowry Prohibition Act 1980, The Narcotics (Control) Act 1990, and The Nari O Shishu Nirjatan (Bishesh Bidhan) Ain 1995.
The Penal Code 1860 the earliest and the main body of laws which deals with different kinds of offences and punishments. Offences under the Code have been classified as those (i) against the State; (ii) related to the Army, Navy and the Air Force; (iii) against the public tranquillity; (iv) by or related to the public servants; (v) related to elections; (vi) for contempt of the lawful authority of public servants; (vii) of false evidence and against public justice; (viii) related to coins and government stamps; (ix) related to weights and measures; (x) affecting public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals; (xi) related to religion; (xii) affecting the human body which have further been sub-divided into offences affecting life, and causing miscarriage, kidnapping, rape, dacoity, or related to marriage, criminal breach of trust and so on.
The offences against the State mainly consist of waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against Bangladesh; conspiring to commit the said offences; collecting arms with the intention of waging war against Bangladesh; sedition; waging war against any neighboring power in alliance with Bangladesh; and assaulting the President of Bangladesh or government with intent to restrain or compel exercise of any lawful power. Offences relating to Army, Navy and Air Force mainly consist of abatement of mutiny; attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty; abatement of assault by soldier, sailor or airman on his superior officer when in execution of his office; abatement of desertion of soldier, sailor or airman; harbouring deserter and wearing garb or carrying token used by soldier, sailor or airman. Offences related to religion consist of injuring or defiling place of worship; deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion; disturbing religious assembly; trespassing in any place of worship or any burial place or cremation ground with intent to insult the religion of any person, and uttering words or sound with intent to wound religious feelings of another person.
Rape of a woman, kidnapping, theft, extortion, robbery, dacoity, dishonest misappropriation of property, criminal breach of trust etc are all punishable under Penal laws. At the same time offences related to culpable homicide amounting to murder, fraudulent execution of deed of transfer containing false statement, killing or maiming cattle, house-trespass are crimes which are also subject to punishment.
The gravity of an offence provides for imposing death penalty, imprisonment for life, forfeiture of property, fine and whipping as the case may be. Death sentence is the highest form of punishment under the Penal Code and may be imposed for treason, abatement of mutiny, perjury resulting in an innocent person being convicted and executed, murder, abatement of suicide of a minor or insane or intoxicated person, attempt to murder by a person under sentence of imprisonment for life, kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of ten and murder while committing dacoity. Imprisonment for life may be imposed for the above offences and some other grave offences. Imprisonment for various terms may be imposed with fine or without fine for the remaining offences. In case of some heinous offences court may impose fine only instead of imposing sentence of imprisonment. For some heinous offences court may impose sentence of whipping with imprisonment. In some of the offences court may order for forfeiture of the property of the accused. The government may commute a sentence of death including an imprisonment for life to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding twenty years. The President may grant pardons, reprieve respites or remissions of sentence.
The Cattle Trespass Act 1871 makes provisions to make complaints, procedure of making complaints and compensation for illegal seizure, detention and release of cattle and recovery of compensation. Similarly, forcibly opposing the seizure of cattle or rescuing the same after seizure are offences for which penalty has been provided. Owners or keepers of pigs are also liable to penalty of fine for damage caused to land or crops or public roads by pigs. Pound-keeper failing to perform duties is also liable to penalty of fine.
The Arms Act 1878 Under this Act, unlicensed manufacture, conversion and sale of arms, import and export of arms, transport of any unauthorized arms over Bangladesh and possession of unlicensed fire arms etc have been prohibited. Provisions have been made for granting license to use arms and ammunitions and granting license to deal in arms and ammunitions. In certain case, an arm is to be deposited at police stations or with licensed dealers. Further provisions have been made giving power to the government to make rules as to license, restriction on movements with arms, cancellation and suspension of license etc. Committing any breach of the above prohibitions would be an offence punishable with imprisonment of different terms, including imprisonment for life, not less than 7 or 10 years as the case may be. It is also punishable offence to knowingly purchase arms from unlicensed person or delivering arms to persons not authorized to possess them. Breach of rule under this Act is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both, as the case may be.
The Explosive Substances Act 1908 Explosive substance deems to include any material for making an explosive substance and also the apparatus, machine or any part thereof which may be used for causing or aiding in causing any explosion. Causing explosion by any explosive substance likely to endanger life, injury to person or property or with intent to commit an offence or to enable any other person to commit an offence are punishable under this Act with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment of any other term with a minimum mandatory sentence of 2 to 5 years. Attempt to cause explosion or making or keeping of explosive substance is also an offence punishable with imprisonment of various terms. Even abatement of above offences is also punishable with the same sentence as provided for the offence concerned.
The Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 enacted to make effective provisions for the prevention of bribery and corruption of public servants. Any public servant who commits or attempts to commit criminal misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both. It has made provision to the effect that in any trial of an offence of criminal misconduct the fact that the accused person or any other person on his behalf is in possession for which accused person cannot satisfactorily account, of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income may be proved, and on such proof the court shall presume, unless the contrary is proved, that the accused person is guilty of criminal misconduct and his conviction thereof shall not be invalid by reason only that it is based solely on such presumption.
The Anti-corruption Act 1957 laid down that the government, on receipt of information and after making such inquiries if satisfied that there is reason to believe that any person or any other person on his behalf is in possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income, it may, by order, require such person to furnish in the prescribed manner within the prescribed time a statement of his property and liabilities and such other information relating to the same. Failure to furnish the statement or information and furnishing false statement or information is a punishable offence. Similarly, possession of any movable or immovable property by any person either in his own name or in the name of any other person on his behalf which appears to have been acquired by improper means and is proved to be disproportionate to his known sources of income, and his failure to account for such possession to the satisfaction of the Court is a punishable offence.
The Special Powers Act 1947 makes hoarding or dealing in black market, counterfeiting currency-note and government stamps, smuggling, adulteration of or sale of adulterated food, drinks, drugs or cosmetics, punishable offences. Attempt to commit those offences has also been made punishable offence. The Act also provides that a partner, director, manager, secretary or other officer or agent of a firm, company, or other body corporate shall be liable to be punished for committing the above offences by the firm, company or body corporate. The Act provides for punishment with death or with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend from 7 years to 14 years, with a minimum punishment ranging from one year to two years and also to pay fine.
The Dowry Prohibition Act 1980 enacted for prohibiting dowry and makes provision that giving or taking/demanding of dowry is an offence punishable with imprisonment and/or fine.
The Narcotics (Control) Act 1990 prohibits cultivation, production, processing, carrying, transporting, importing, exporting, supplying, buying, selling, possessing, preserving, stocking, exhibiting and using of any narcotics except alcohol. The Act also prohibits cultivation, production, processing, carrying, transporting, importing, exporting, supplying, buying, selling, possessing, preserving, stocking, exhibiting of any materials or plants used as ingredient in the production of alcohol. But the above prohibitions would not apply to a person who obtains a license, permit or pass for production, use and carrying and transportation respectively of any narcotics, etc.
Violation of the above prohibition without license, permit or pass is punishable with sentence of death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for any other term according to the quantity and nature of narcotics involved. The Act also provides that whoever keeps any instruments etc usable in production of narcotics would be liable to imprisonment. Allowing by or any person to use his house, conveyance etc for purpose of committing any offence under the Act is also a punishable offence. Doing anything without license, permit or pass under the Act for which license, permit or pass is issued, is also a punishable offence. Violation of condition of any license, permit or pass is also a punishable offence. If any officer of the Narcotics Department having the power of search, seizure or arrest, without any reasonable cause searches any place, seizes any property of any person or arrests any person for harassing him, such officer would be liable to punishment.
The Nari O Shishu Nirjatan (Bishesh Bidhan) Ain 1995 provides that whoever causes death of any woman or child by any poisonous, combustible or corrosive substance shall be punished with death. Offence of grievous hurt caused by using the above substance resulting in permanent privation of the sight, disfiguration of head or face, privation of the hearing, permanent destruction of any member or joint of the body of a woman or child has been made punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment upto 14 years with a minimum of 7 years imprisonment.
Rape of any woman or child has been made punishable with imprisonment for life. If any woman or child dies as a result of raping, the offender would be punished with death. Causing death of a woman or child by gang rape is also punishable with death or imprisonment for life. Attempt to cause death or injury by raping a woman or child is also punishable with death or imprisonment for life. Illegal trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution, illegal cohabitation or engaging in illegal or immoral work has been made punishable with imprisonment for life. Abduction or kidnapping of a woman for the purpose of engaging or using in prostitution, to compel her to marry against her will or to compel her to sexual intercourse by using force or coaxing or cajoling her is punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for 10 years with a minimum of 7 years imprisonment. Causing death of a woman for dowry is punishable with death. Causing grievous hurt to a woman for dowry is punishable with imprisonment for life or 14 years, which shall not be less than 5 years. Attempt to cause death of a woman for dowry is punishable with imprisonment for life. Illegal trafficking in children, custody or possession of children is punishable with death or imprisonment for life. Abduction or illegal confinement of a child is punishable with death or imprisonment for life. [Momtazuddin Ahmed]