Rapid Action Battalion

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Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) In the wake of continuing sliding down of the law and order situation in the country, the government, since 2001, has been experimenting with different options to combat rising incidence of terrorism and crime. The final shape took place in 2003. Initially, finding a name for the new law-enforcing agency has been debated. It was first thought that it would be a Rapid Action Force (RAF) capable of moving to any place rapidly and take action as appropriate. Later, the name suggested was Rapid Action Team (RAT). It was supposed to act as a team consisting of such disparate elements as the army and the police. Ultimately, the name chosen was Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The RAB was created under The Armed Police Battalion (Amendment) Act, 2003 by a Gazette notification on 12 July 2003 by amending the Armed Forces Battalion Ordinance 1979. The RAB is a manpower based composite force, consisting of such number of officers and armed personnel and shall be constituted in such manner as may be prescribed, and armed personnel and officers in Rapid Action Battalion may, as and when necessary, be appointed on secondment or deputation, as the case may be, from among the persons who are in the service of the Republic, including any disciplined force.

Functions of RAB include: (a) internal security duties: (aa) intelligence in respect of crime and criminal activities; (b) recovery of unauthorised arms, ammunition, explosives and such other articles as the government may, from time to time, direct; (bb) investigation of any offence on the direction of the government; (c) apprehension of armed gangs of criminals; (d) assisting other law enforcing agencies including the police for maintaining law and order, and (e) such other duties as the government, from time to time, may assign. The Ordinance requires Rapid Action Battalions along with other Battalions of the Force to perform all the duties described, but no other battalions save the Rapid Action Battalions shall perform any duty mentioned in clauses (aa) and (bb). Rapid Action Battalions have exclusive jurisdiction in this regard.

RAB as a disciplined force, was raised under the Armed Police Battalion (Amendment) Act, 2003 (Act XXVII of 2003). The term 'disciplined force' under the Act means and includes (i) the army, navy or air force, (ii) the police force, and (iii) any other force declared by law to be disciplined force, or declared by the government by notification in the official gazette to be disciplined force within the meaning of this definition. The definition so adopted is basically the same as in the Bangladesh Constitution. The same law also provides one or more Rapid Action Battalion. It further provides for deputed personnel from any of the above disciplined force including those in the service of the Republic.

Each battalion of the force is placed under the direct control and superintendence of an officer not below the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police or equivalent in any disciplined force, and such officers are to be deputed to the force by the government. The Commanding Officer of a battalion may himself investigate any offence, or direct an officer subordinate to him to investigate.

In respect of investigation of an offence, RAB personnel are to follow the procedure prescribed in the Code of Criminal Procedure (Act V of 1898) or any other law. However, it is not open to them to forward the investigation report to the court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal. They have to send it to the officer-in-charge of a police station who is required to submit the report within forty-eight hours to the court or tribunal as the case may be. For completion of investigation, RAB personnel are vested with such powers and can perform such functions and duties as may be exercised or performed by a police officer under the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898.

Since its inception, RAB has faced public criticism aired through the media for extra-judicial killing. The Home Minister, in reply to a question raised in the Jatiya Sangsad in the second half of January 2009, informed that so far there has been as many as 373 extra-judicial deaths. In this process, one RAB personnel was killed and many others injured. RAB defends it by denoting such deaths occurring due to cross-fire or encounter.

At the other end, RAB has earned reputation in the successful arrests of many fugitives from law, in particular, arrests and prosecution of top leaders of militant Islamic groups called Jam'at ul-Mujahedin of Bangladesh and Harkat ul-Jihad. In late March 2009, RAB added another feather to its cap by unearthing the den of some terrorists located in a madrasa in Bhola district that led to a number of arrests. [AMM Shawkat Ali]

Bibliography Bangladesh Gazette, 12 July 2003, Armed Police Battalion (Amendment) Act, No.37, 2003; RAB, Eradication of Terrorism or state-backed Terrorism, Ain O Shalish Kendra, May 2005; AMM Shawkat Ali, Faces of Terrorism in Bangladesh, The' University Press Ltd, 2006.