“Protection of Human Rights and Effective Policing: Bangladesh Perspective”

- Musferat Mazrun Chowdhury


Published On - August 20, 2016 [Vol. 5, Jul - Dec, 2016]


Protection of Human Rights is a buzzword today. And effective policing may play a vital role for these. Police enforce existing laws for the sake of ensuring justice and protecting human rights via application of Bangladesh Constitution, The Police Act 1861 & The UDHR 1948. Moreover, through the use of CrPC 1898 and Special Powers Act 1974, the Police get some special powers (to further uphold justice/which act as legal backup for the above provisions mentioned. Police can play vital role in criminal justice system by making investigation and final report for discharging an innocent, keep role to get the right of fair trial and also by arresting suspected person. And thus protect human rights honestly. But human rights are sometimes violated by police force itself when they misuse their power for personal interest, for political influence or for others causes. This study has tried to explore the powers of police which may help them in protecting human rights and to find out the limitations faced by them to perform their assigned duty for this purpose. I also suggest some recommendations for overcoming existing shortcomings so that the police may be turned into a positive force and protect human rights efficiently.


Human Rights protection is a crying need all over the world and the police as a law enforcing agency needs to play crucial role in this regard. The Bangladesh Constitution, The Police Act, 1861; The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948(UDHR) etc provide legal provisions for protection of human rights in Bangladesh and there is also an organized police force in Bangladesh to uphold this protection. Police enforce existing laws and also get some special powers for the sake of ensuring justice and protecting human rights under The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (CrPC) and Special Power Act, 1974. Police may help a victim to get justice by making investigation and final report for discharging an innocent or make charge sheet for proceeding to trial stage, and thus keep role to get the right of fair trial etc. Police may also prevent violation of human rights by arresting suspected persons before the committal of the offence. But human rights situation of Bangladesh is neglected and sometimes violated by police itself when they misuse their power for personal interest or for political influence.

Human Rights and violation of Human Rights:

Human rights are commonly understood as “inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being.” Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). [1] These are ascribed “naturally,” which means that they are not earned and cannot be denied on the basis of race, creed, ethnicity or gender. These rights are often advanced as legal rights and protected by the rule of law.

These rights are based mainly on- Guaranty which is given by the State or Government and so the main responsibility to protect it lies on the government. Besides, these involve a notion of a contract between the State and its Citizens that is encoded in its constitution and other legal instruments for protection and deliverance, though it is not enforceable by the court in Bangladesh except the fundamental rights enshrined in part III of the constitution.

So for these two key points, Guaranty and Contract, it is the police who as a law enforcing agency are to ensure the safety of all the members of our society with a sense of security.

Human rights violations occur when associations by state (or non-state) actors abuse, ignore, or deny basic human rights (including civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights) and also when any state or non-state actor breaches any part of the UDHR treaty or other international human rights or humanitarian law.

In Bangladesh, human rights are violated under the headings of murder, political killings, extra judicial killings, mob lynching, unlawful arrest and detention, attack on journalists etc.

Relationship between Human Rights and Police System:

The protection of human rights should stand alongside the prevention and detection of crime and the preservation of social order is one of the primary functions of police system.

Protection of and respect for human rights are so integral to policing that the creation of a human rights culture within police agencies, is one of the most important tasks faced by police leaders at present.

To recognize the human rights culture, the police, as a member of the human family, should enjoy some human rights for themselves such as the right to life, the economic, social and cultural rights etc. The ways in which a police official is recruited, trained, equipped, briefed, deployed and supervised can have a direct impact on whether or not he or she is killed or survives in a potentially fatal situation. So the special human rights needed by police should also be acknowledged and tried to be met.

 The relationship between human rights and policing should be characterized by these three concepts – protection and respect to human rights for public and entitlement of human rights for their own. [2]

In Bangladesh, an organized police force headed by Inspector General of Police has been set up as a national force to keep social orders and to protect human rights by enforcing related legal provisions.

Role of Police in Protecting Human Rights:

It is primary duty of the Government to protect the life and the property of the citizens. Public depends primarily upon police for personal safety and for the safety of their property. Actually policemen sworn duty is to enforce law and to keep their position neutral and devoted to the people, though it is rare in a developing country like Bangladesh.

Preventive function

Sections 149 to 153 of the CrPC 1898 say about the preventive actions of police for ensuring safety of public life and property. They perform it in the form of arrest and inspection.[3] Police can arrest with or without warrant. But person arrested without warrant must be brought to the nearest magistrate within 24 hours.[4] Article 33 of Bangladesh Constitution also ensures it.

Power of Investigation:

Police may be helpful to public by investigating the criminal activities of the miscreants under sections 154 to 176 of the CrPC 1898. As a criminal case starts with the filing of FIR with the officer in charge of a police station, police may help people by recording proper information and by investigating the case prudently. They may play a positive role here to pave the way for ensure justice by forming a ‘charge sheet’ for prosecution or a ‘final report’ to discharge the falsely arrested one.[5]

Interrogation by police

Any investigating police officer may examine orally any person supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case under section 161 of CrPC 1898 with some conditions including maintaining civilities, no coercion, no torture etc. and any confession gained by this interrogation in the absence of magistrate or third party will not be considered as evidence under The Evidence Act 1872.[6]

Search and Seizure

To promote the course of investigation, police is authorized to make search, order the production of documents, seize any suspicious property, call witness, require them to attend the court and arrest suspected persons. Police can conduct a search with or without warrant on the basis of some documentary reports of crimes under section 96 to 105 of CrPC1898 .This search and seizure must have to be lawful and in the presence of the independent witness of the locality.

Police as prosecutor:

When crime occurs state becomes victim as a guardian of the party. Here police investigate to identify the real offender and public prosecutor conducts the case. The success of the prosecution case depends on the efficiency of the police investigation because the charge against accused must be proved beyond any reasonable doubt. Here police play effective role to protect human rights by ensuring right to justice even the victim not being a direct party of the case.[7]

Role in international arena

To prevent crime, close connection and co-operation all over the world is needed and so Bangladesh has become a member of Interpol in 1988. Its police are also playing a remarkable role in UN peace keeping mission from 1989 which prove that our police are efficient enough to protect victims, if it pledges in that regard.

Abuse of Police Power:

Many human rights activists and media express that police often abuse their power of unwarranted arrest under section 54 of CrPC 1898. Some ambiguous phrases such as ‘reasonable suspicion’, ‘reasonable complaint’, ‘credible information’, ‘any person who has been concerned in any cognizable offence’ etc help police to do this in the name of discretion.

Another way to abuse is the power under section 167 of the Act in the name of police remand for completing police investigation with the permission of magistrate beyond 24 hours. Here many occurrences happen against human right of the detainee. Inhumane torture and custodial death often occurs, causing severe violation of human rights. But for the sake of justice or as an official duty, most of the time magistrates often allow this reprimand.[8]

BLAST, ASK and Others vs. Bangladesh and Others [9] case is an example in regard where Arbitrary Arrest and Unreasonable Police Remand have been challenged. In this case, Shamim Reza Rubel, a student of Independent University ,was arrested by Detective Branch Police and later on he died in custody through brutal torture by police in the name of remand. This shocking incident raised immense criticism and protest against police among human right organization and civil society for abusing power of section 54 and 167 of CrPC 1898. [10]

Problems faced by Police:

Among various problems, followings are notable barriers which hinder the police to perform their duty:

Political and Bureaucratic Interferences

Political and bureaucratic interference are the most significant impediments to police efficiency and have resulted in the worst forms of abuse including illegal detention, death in custody, torture and pervasive corruption. All governments, till now, have used the police to crush political enemies while many politicians have used them to advance their personal interests. Low police salaries and government control of promotions and transfers etc remind that police are dependent on the political leadership, which prevents investigation of serious issues of corruption, organized crime or other matters. In other words, some political leaders would remain untouched by law enforcements.[11]

Inadequate Curriculum

The quality of new officer’s training is poor. Constables receive six months of physical and weapons training at various training schools around the country but its curriculum are inadequate. New recruits still train on horses and practice with bayonets. As a result, the junior ranks generally have a weak grasp of police procedures and the proper use of force when dealing with criminals or crowds.

Trainers at Sardah criticise the academy’s curriculum as prioritizing “physical toughness over mental toughness” and say that it focuses too heavily on the study of law, without enough attention given to subjects such as counter-terrorism, criminology, human rights, management and investigations.[12]

Over Working Hours

Constables are severely overworked. On average, low ranking officers are to work anywhere from twelve to sixteen hour shifts but are rarely compensated for more than an eight-hour day. They can’t even chase criminals because they don’t possess enough energy after such long working hours. Vacation days are also unheard of. Many constables are prevented from taking annual leave or public holidays, and often sneak away citing health or family problems. In one case a Dhaka constable was even threatened with suspension for taking leave to attend his father’s burial. [13]

Poor Salary

The salary of the police is too meager to meet the increasing daily expenses. Conditions of service and facilities, particularly for the subordinate ranks, are poor and drive police morale downwards; salaries for gazetted officers are far from generous and among the lowest in the civil service. For instance the monthly pay and allowances of the IGP, the highest ranking in the force, amounts to Tk78, 000; on the other hand, at the very bottom of the pay scale, the monthly salary of a police constable is only Tk 8,250.[14]

Frequent Transfer

Frequent transfers compound problems with infrequent promotions. Officers at all ranks spend usually two years at each duty station but sometimes as little as six months before they are rotated. Transfers are intended to serve two purposes: increase officers’ skills by exposing them to different policing environments and decrease police corruption by limiting links to corrupt politicians and criminal networks. In practice, it is a major source of financial corruption in the police force. High prices are paid to politicians, government bureaucrats or commanding officers for lucrative postings where officers can make side incomes larger than their salaries. Citizens and officers alike complain that transfers result in a loss of police efficiency and lower skill levels. A U.S. official in Dhaka familiar with Bangladesh’s security services said, “Once a police officer is trained up and gets a feel for the local community, he’s transferred. Building trust with the community and learning the local situation takes time, it’s not automatic”.[15]

Status threatening

Many police officers of the General Executive Branch of the police service want to be in the field enjoying territorial jurisdiction. In other words, they want to be the DGP of the State, IG of the zone, DIG of the range, SP of the district, Inspector of a circle and sub inspector of a police station. Such postings give them status, position and money which really demands superhuman achievement for them to remain in that post, for that, scientific methods of crime and prolonged investigation may not be of any help. Ignorance of scientific information in field level is also liable for human rights unfriendly approaches.[16]

To Investigate Crime Quickly

An additional SP at police headquarters admitted that harsh beatings and torture were often used to gain information from a criminal suspect. “Not all police have the materials or the knowledge to conduct proper investigations like forensic ones, so some resort to torture methods to find the murder weapon”, he said. A High Court lawyer familiar with the police explained that pressure from superiors to solve crimes encourages torture: “If the crimes are not solved in your area then you could be transferred, demoted or fired … you’ll do what you have to, to get answers quickly. Some police think that torture saves time”.[17]


To get honest and devoted performance from police, some effective measures should be taken to overcome the problems faced by police. Such as:

Modernization of Police

Increasing the number of police is critical to create the capacity to ensure internal security, but an effective reform process may be brought even without a new police law including improved salary, reward and pension structures; and welfare services. Introducing new training methods and procedures and modernization of the recruitment system may be useful to overcome the intolerable condition of police which is essential for improving devoted mentality towards their duty.

Insulation from political Inference

Police often face political interferences in performing their duty including their appointment, promotion, transfer etc and are used as a weapon to fulfill political interest. So effective law should be ensured to protect the police force from undue political inferences and the mentality of the politicians should be changed towards greater development of the public.

Promotion and Transfer

As a matter of policy, officers should remain at their duty station for at least two years before being transferred. Because this can allow officers to develop requisite skills and local knowledge for effective crime control and build the relationships necessary for successful community policing efforts which is important for better performance. The IGP should be a tenured position and appointed neutrally on the basis of experience, better performance, leading personality and honesty. The PIO (Public Investigating Officer) should also be empowered to investigate the activities and honesty of police officials for promotion.

Rewarding for Good Practice

A fund should be created and administered jointly by the police and parliamentarians, for financially rewarding of the police for exceptional policing. Other incentives such as participation on UN peacekeeping operations, additional training, swift promotion etc may be used as rewards for good practice.

Salaries and Resource Allocation

Better investment is need to ensure that the police can protect and serve citizens and police salaries should be raised and the resources should be allocated to pay for much needed facilities and to increase expense budgets of individual stations and departments. These will help to keep police mentally and financially satisfied and promote their respect to their duty.

Human Rights Training

Human Rights functions should be included in their training program for building a human rights culture in the police organization. It will be helpful to prevent crime without any violation of human rights.

Establishing Code of Conduct for Police

Code of Conduct for Police should be established to guide their actions as per the law dictates of Law and the aspirations of the people. The Police must bear faithful allegiance to the Constitution, and must respect and uphold the rights of the citizen as guaranteed by it and by international laws.

Others steps

1. Improving relation between police and media because media plays significant role in bringing public and police in closer relationship.

2. Improving police morality by imparting ethical training.

3. Including human rights should be in the curriculum of education system for all levels including SSC and HSC.

4. Provisions of appropriate punishment for abusing special power by police should be inserted in the legislation.

5. The ambiguous terms such as reasonable suspicion, credible information, reasonable complaint under which police get special power and immunity should be clarified in the related laws.

6. Investigation department should be separated from the police department where police is the perpetrator.

7. The victims should raise their voice against the culprits and help the investigating officer by providing necessary information.

So by removing shortcomings and improving social attitude in addition to police training may reduce the rate of human rights violation and improve police role in this regard. If police personnel are able to perform their duty honestly, people will respect them as a protector of human rights.


As a main part of law enforcing agencies, police get some special powers for the sake of ensuring justice and protecting human rights under CrPC1898 and Special Powers Act 1974. By playing vital role in criminal justice system, police may help a victim to get justice, by making investigation and final report for discharging an innocent, keep role to get the right of fair trial and also police by arresting suspected person honestly may prevent violation of human rights before committal of the occurrence. But in practice police often misuse their power for personal interest or acting whimsically and violate human rights in the name of remand and arrest on reasonable suspicion beyond legal conscience. To make police personnel aware of their duty towards society, Supreme Court has provided some guidelines in various cases. Actually police is the protector of human rights of people and it will be proved only when they will act honestly, sincerely and with a devoted mind to their duty.

[1] www.wikipedia.com, last visited 23.02.2016

[2] . Dr Ralph Crashaw, ‘Human Rights and Policing’, Turkish Weekly, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, UK.

[3] . Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Karzon, ‘Theritical and Applied Criminolgy’ p-211(1st Edition, 2008).

[4] . Sections 46 to 67 of Criminal Procedure Code 1898.

[5]. The Code of Criminal Procedure 1898.

[6] . Section 25 of The Evidenced Act, 1872.

[7] .ibid,p.220.

[8] . Sahdeen Malik, ‘Arrest and Remand: Judicial Interpretation and Police Practice’, Bangladesh Journal Of Law, Special Issue, p.277.

[9] . Writ petition no.3806/1998.

[10] .,Hasibul Alam Prodhan, ‘The Role of BLAST to protect Human Rights in Bangladesh’, University of Rajshahi,2010 ,p.190.

[11] . International Crisis Group , ‘ Bangladesh Getting Police Reform on Track’, Asia Report no 182-11 December,2009; p.15.

[12] .ibid. p.11.

[13] .ibid. p. 13.

[14] . Bangladesh Gazette ,December, 15, 2015(www.bgpress.gov.bd).

[15] .ibid.p.15

[16] . Laishramcha Jinine , ‘ Human Rights and Police –part 1’, The Sangai Express, 2011. http:// e-pao.net/

[17] . ibid. p.17.

About The Writer

Article Author Image

Musferat Mazrun Chowdhury

Lecturer, Department of law, Bangladesh University

Mohammadpur, Dhaka.


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