The State Vs. Noor Islam and others, 1 LNJ (2012) 129

Case No: Death reference No. 143 of 2005

Judge: Afzal Hossain Ahmed,

Court: High Court Division,,

Advocate: Mr. Md. Salim,Mr.Md. Ensan Uddin Sheikh,Mr. Md. Nurul Islam Matubber,Mr. Md. Amir Hossain,Mrs. Shahanara Begum,,

Citation: 1 LNJ (2012) 129

Case Year: 2012

Appellant: The State

Respondent: Noor Islam and others

Subject: Commutation/Reduction of Sentence,

Delivery Date: 2011-01-31

HIGH COURT DIVISION
(CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION)
 
Afzal Hossain Ahmed, J.
Md. Emdadul Haque Azad, J.
 
Judgment
31.01.2011
The State……Petitioner
VS
Noor Islam and others……Condemned-prisoners
Noor Islam & others……Appellants
VS
The State……Respondent
Hajiluddin @ Azizur Rahman……Appellant
VS
The State……Respondent
Noor Islam……Appellant
VS
The State……Respondent
Ziaur Rahman @ Zia ……Appellant
VS
The State……Respondent
Jahangir @ Gani ……Appellant
VS
The State……Respondent
 
Code of Criminal Procedure (V of 1898)
Section 164 and 364
Evidence Act (1 of 1872)
Section 24
The confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners are inculpatory in nature and consistent with each other regarding time, place and manner of the occurrence. All the condemned-prisoners in their aforesaid confessional statements  have given a vivid picture of the alleged occurrence disclosing that as pre-meditated the condemned-prisoner, Noor Islam husband of the deceased, Shilpi Khatun to suit his evil design  to get the victim raped by other condemned prisoners  and absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur on the alleged date   took the victim,  Shilpi Khatun to  the alleged place of occurrence where absconding convict  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur,   at first, forcibly  raped the victim and then the other condemned-prisoners  raped her     one after another  and after committing  the gang-rape absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque  @  Azizur caught hold of  the neck of the victim fastening by her sharee which resulted in her death. Condemned-prisoner  Md. Ziaur Rahman @ Zia in his confessional statement stated that condemned-prisoner Noor Islam also raped  the victim Shilpi Khatun.

We do not find any cogent reason as to why self-implication of the condemned prisoners in the commission of offence cannot be taken as true. Retraction of confession   at an earliest opportunity some time may lend support to the defence plea that the confession was not voluntary one but for the bilated retraction of a confession as in the present case, without any material to support it, no such inference can be drawn. Rather, the consensus of judicial decisions are that an accused may be convicted even on retracted confession, if it is inculpatory and found to be voluntary and true. ……(32)

In the present case mere keeping three of the condemned prisoners in Police custody for two days does not ifso facto make the confession involuntary in nature. We are satisfied that all the legal formalities have been observed in this case by the Magistrate in recording the confessional statements marked as Exts. 5, 6, 7 and 8. There is nothing on record to show that the condemned-prisoners made the confessions out of fear or torture or maltreatment of the Police and or that the confession was the result of inducement. ...(23 and 32)               
 
Code of Criminal Procedure (V of 1898)
Section 376
From the date of making the Death Reference by the Tribunal below on 5.9.2005  about 5 ½ years have already elapsed, not due to any laches of the condemned prisoners, in the making Death Reference and the Appeals ready for disposal as a result of which also the condemned prisoners have undergone the mental agony and  anxieties of gallows  around their neck for a long period.  Thus, on giving our careful consideration to the delay in disposal of the Death Reference  and Appeals  along with other factors as extenuating  circumstances, we think that the ends of justice would be sufficiently met if we commute the sentence of death  passed upon the condemned prisoners and the absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur to imprisonment for life .… (36)
 
Code of Criminal Procedure (V of 1898)
Section 35 A (1)
All the condemned prisoners and the absconding convict  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur are entitled to get the benefit as provided  under Sub-Section (1) of Section 35 A of the Code of Criminal Procedure. …. (37)

Joygun Bibi Vs. The State reported in 12 D.L.R. (SC) 157,   Hozrat Ali and Abdur Rahman -Vs.- the State reported in 42 D.L.R,. (HCD) (1990) 177,  38 D.L.R. 197
 
Mr. Md. Salim, Deputy Attorney-General with Mr.Md. Ensan Uddin Sheikh, and Mr. Md. Nurul Islam Matubber,  Assistant Attorneys-General
....For the Appellant-State.
Mr. Md. Amir Hossain
...For all the Condemned Prisoners-Appellants.
Mrs. Shahanara Begum- State Defence Lawyer
... For the Absconding Convict.       

Death reference No. 143 of 2005 with Criminal Appeal No. 4095 of 2005 with Jail Appeal Nos. 1060, 1061, 1062, 1063 of 2005

Judgment
AFZAL HOSSAIN AHMED , J:
               
This Death Reference  has been made under Section 29 of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain,2000 read with Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure  by the learned Judge of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Tribunal, Jessore for confirmation of the sentence of death imposed upon the condemned-prisoners , namely, 1) Noor Islam, 2) Ziaur Rahman @ Zia,  3) Jahangir @ Gani, 4) Hazil Uddin @ Azizur Rahman and another 5) Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur (absconding) in Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Case No. 12 of 2003. The condemed-presinores filed Jail Appeal being Nos. 1060 of 2005, 1061 of 2005, 1062 of 2005 and 1063 of 2005. Besides, the above named condemned – prisoners have also filed a separate Criminal Appeal being Criminal Appeal No.  4095 of 2005. The  Death Reference, Jail Appeals as well as the Criminal Appeal have all been heard together and are disposed of  by this judgment.

2.             The prosecution case, in short, is as follows:-
One Md. Rajbul Hossain, on 1.11.2002 at 12-15 hours, being informant lodged ejahar with the Jhikorgachha Police Station to the effect that having gone to the house of his sister Monoara she informed him that the dead body of  Shilpi Khatun (brother’s daughter of the informant) was found nacked in the  Papaw garden of Hossain Ali of village-Nilkantha Nagar. Then the informent being accompanied by Sirajul (his younger brother), Alamgir (his sister’s son) and sister Monoara  went to the Jhikorgachha Police Station  and identified the dead body  to be of his brother’s daughter, Shilpi Khatun and found black marks on the throat of the deceased, Shilpi Khatun. Nearly, 1½  months ago  that Shilpi Khatun  was given  in marriage  with the accused  Noor Islam. After marriage Shilpi Khatun went to  her father-in-law’s house  twice with her husband, Noor Islam. After completing the pleasure trip in her father-in-law’s house the victim Shilpi Khatun  was taken  to her father’s house one  day before  the  Shab-E-Barat. On  25.10.2002,  Friday, Shilpi Khatun while staying in the house of the sister of the informant the accused Noor Islam  (victim’s husband) came there for fetching Shilpi Khatun. The accused Noor Islam stayed in that house for a week. Thereafter, on  31.10.2002  at 4-30 P.M. the accused Noor Islam got into a bus with the victim Shilpi Khatun  from Jhoudanga Bus-stand  for going to his own village  of Nilkantha Nagar. On that date, at about 6-30 P.M., the accused- Noor Islam  got down  from the  bus at Gadkhali Bus-stand  with the victim Shilpi. After crossing the Gadkhali Bazar on foot the accused Noor Islam,  without taking the short unmetalled  road to go to his village, chose the open field  as per his pre-meditation and took the victim, Shilpi Khatun  to the papaw garden of his brother, Hossain Ali. After taking the victim Shilpi Khatun to that Papaw  garden the accused, Noor Islam and his accomplices, namely, Jahangir alias Gani, Hajiluddin alias Azizur, Aizul alias Aaju and Zia gang-raped her one after another  and murdered her and left the dead body of Shilpi at that Papaw garden. At 9-30 P.M., on that very night on 31.10.2002, accused, Noor Islam reached home and mal-informed that the terrorists snatched away his wife, Shilpi Khatun from him on his way home. At that time  the accused, Noor Islam feigned to be physically ill. On the basis of that mal-information, the local people conducted search for Shilpi Khatun, and sometime after in that very night on  31.10.2002,  the local people discovered  the nacked dead body of Shilpi Khatun from the Papaw garden  of Hossain Ali. Then, the informant filed the F.I.R. with Jhikargacha Police Station whereupon the instant case was started. Police investigated the case and submitted charge-sheet against accused persons, Noor Islam, Jahangir alias Goni, Hajiruddin alias Azizur Rahman, Ziaur Rahman alias Zia, Aaizul alias Aazu  alias Azizur under Section 9(3) of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain, 2000. At the beginning of the trial charge under Section 9(3) of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain, 2000  was framed against all the above named 5 accused persons including the absconding accused  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur . The charge was read over and explained to all the aforesaid  condemned prisoners except the absconding accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  to which they pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried. Because of his absconsion  charge could not be read over and explained to accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur .

3.             After closure of the  examination of the prosecution witnesses all the above named  condemned-prisoners except  the abasconding accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  were examined under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to which they maintained  the same plea of innocence. Accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur could not be examined under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure  as he was absconding. At this stage, all the condemned prisoners except the absconding accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  have said that they are quite innocent  and that Police illegally arrested them in connection with this case and by inflicting physical torture  and showing threat of handing over them to the  Army for ‘Clean Heart Operation’ obtained the confessional statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure  from them. The said confessional statements were neither true nor voluntary which they retracted subsequently.

4.             19 witnesses for the prosecution and none for the defence were examined in this case. The prosecution have also adduced evidence which are marked as exhibits and material exhibits . State defence was provided for the absconding accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur.

5.             The defence case as appears from the trend of cross-examination  of the prosecution witnesses  that all the accused persons are innocent and they have been falsely implicated in this case and they did not commit the offence as alleged and that the confessional statements  have been obtained from the confessing accused by exercising  threat  and coercion  upon them and the same are not at all true and voluntary.

6.             The learned Judge of the  Tribunal  below having heard both the parties and considering the evidence and materials on record passed the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence  dated 4.5.2005 convicting all the above named 5 accused persons including the absconding accused  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  under Section 9(3) of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000  and sentencing them to death  by hanging by neck  and also sentencing of them to pay a fine of Tk.1,00,000/-  each.

7.             The instant Death Reference being No. 143 of 2005 arises out of the aforesaid judgment and order of conviction  and sentence  and, thereafter, being aggrieved  by the aforesaid  judgment and order of conviction  and sentence  the convict-appellants have preferred  the   Jail Appeals and the regular Appeal   as above.

8.             Mr. Md. Selim, the learned Deputy Attorney-General with Mr. Md. Ensanuddin Sheikh and Mr. Md. Nurul Islam Matobbor, the learned  Assistant Attorneys-General appearing for the State submits that in the instant case the victim, Shilpi Khatun  was gang-raped  and then brutally  done to death by all the condemned-prisoners alongwith the absconding accused  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  and that the alleged occurrence took place at the instance of condemned-prisoner, Noor Islam, husband of the victim,  Shilpi Khatun and that  all the condemned-prisoners voluntarily made confessional statements  recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure wherein they confessed that as per plan designed by convict, Noor Islam  all other accused including the absconding accused Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur gang-raped the victim Shilpi Khatun  in presence of her husband and, thereafter, she was done to death by strangulation  fastening her sharee on the neck. The learned Deputy Attorney-General further submits that all the aforesaid confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners are consistent with each other wherein they gave a vivid picture  as to how the alleged occurrence took place which is also consistent with the Inquest Report, Post Mortem Report  and other evidence and materials on record and that the learned Tribunal Judge  considering all the aspects of the matter as well as  the evidence on record passed the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence and there is no reason  to interfere with the same and that in a case of this sort  of heinous offence all the condemned-prisoners  as well as the absconding convict  upon his securing arrest should be hanged.

9.             Mr. Md. Amir Hossain, the learned Advocate appearing for the condemned-prisoners submits that there is no eye-witness of the alleged occurrence in this case and that the conviction of the condemned-prisoners are solely based on the judicial confessional statements made by them  which have been extracted from them by exercising threat and coercion  upon them and the same have not been  voluntarily made  by them. The learned Advocate further submits that in the instant case all the condemned-prisoners were produced before the Magistrate for recording their confession from Police custody about after 2 days from their arrest  and that in the Post Mortem Report of the deceased, Shilpi Khatun no sign of rape was found and on these counts the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence is not sustainable in law. More so, there was no motive for committing murder of the victim even if the confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners are taken to be true and voluntary. Mr. Hossain  further submits that all the condemned-prisoners  are  aged between 18-24 and this shows  that they  all are of tender age and that the condemned-prisoners have been in condemned cell for about 6 years. The learned Advocate, lastly, entreats submitting that if the Hon’ble Court is pleased to uphold the impugned judgment and order of conviction, in consideration of their tender age and long detention in the condemned cell and as they had no pre-meditation and initial motive to kill the victim, the sentence of the condemned-prisoners may be commuted to imprisonment for life from death.

10.          Mrs. Shahanara Begum, the learned Advocate, as State defence lawyer, appearing for the  absconding convict-Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  adopted the submission  made by Mr. Md. Amir Hossain, the learned Advocate appearing for the condemned-prisoners as above.

11.          Now, let us see whether the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence is sustainable in law.

12.          Admittedly, victim Shilpi Khatun was married  to the condemned-prisoner Noor Islam  about one and a half months before the alleged occurrence and while she had been staying at the house of the informant’s sister, on 25.10.2002, Friday, Noor Islam went there to take Shilpi Khatun back and after staying there for one week, on 31.10.2002, Thursday at about 4-50 P.M. Noor Islam taking victim Shilpi Khatun  with him left  that house for his own house at village Nilkantha Nagar  and at Jhowdanga  they boarded  on a bus  and got down at Godkhali Bus-stand at about 6-15 P.M.  and at 9-30 P.M. on that date  Noor Islam  came home and disclosed  that his wife  Shilpi has been forcibly snatched away by miscreants   and on search  at about 9-50 P.M. the dead body of the victim, Shilpi Khatun  was found nacked  lying in the Papaw garden of Hossain Ali.

13.          It is alleged in the F.I.R. that having seen the dead body  of Shilpi Khatun information was given to the Jhikorgachha Police Station and, meanwhile, accused Noor Islam disclosed that as per pre-meditation he took Shilpi Khatun  to the Papaw garden of Hossain Ali where his accomplices Jahangir @ Gani, Hajiluddin @ Azizur Rahman, Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur (absconding)  and Zia  gang-raped her and then caused her death by strangulation fastening  sharee around her neck.

14.          The informant Md. Rajbul Hossain, uncle of the deceased Shilpi Khatun, appearing as P.W. 1 has corroborated the prosecution case in toto as given in the F.I.R. . His testimony regarding time, place and manner of the occurrence as given in the F.I.R. remains in tact and during cross-examination by the defence he could not be shaken on those vital points. In the instant case although the prosecution has examined as many as 19 witnesses but, in fact, there is no eye-witness to the occurrence amongst them and the prosecution case  leading to the conviction  and sentence of the contemned-prisoners  and the absconding  convict-Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  is solely based on the inculpatory confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners  as well as on the attending facts, circumstances, evidence and materials on record.

15.          Amongst the P.Ws., P.W. 16 Monoara  Khatun is the aunt of the deceased Shilpi Khatun who has said by corroborating  the informant P.W. 1  that on the alleged  date of occurrence at about 4-30 P.M. accused Noor Islam took Shilpi Khatun with him for going to his house  after staying about a week in her house  and on the next date at about 8 A.M. she came to know from Nazrul Islam, a  Police of Jhikorgachha Police Station, that Shilpi Khatun died. She came to Thana, saw the dead body  of  Shilpi Khatun  wrapped with a patti and also saw  accused Noor Islam at the Police Station and, on query,  he confessed that he killed Shilpi Khatun.

16.          P.W. 5 Md. Fazlur Rahman Foza, a Shop keeper, has said that  on 31.10.2002,  at about dusk, accused Noor Islam and Shilpi Khatun bought  Bidi and  Navy cigarette for one taka from his  shop and, thereafter, heard that  Shilpi Khatun has been murdered .

17.          P.W.2  Md. Alamgir, P.W. 3  Md. Akter Hossain (Ripon)  and P.W. 15 Rafiqul Islam have said that accused Noor Islam confessed  in  their presence that he caused the murder  of Shilpi Khatun at the Papaw garden of Hossain Ali.

18.          In the instant case, the alleged occurrence took place in between 18.50 and 21.30 hours on 31.10.2002 and the accused Noor Islam was arrested on 31.10.2002, immediately, after the occurrence.  Accused Jahangir @ Gani, Hajiluddin and Zia were arrested on 1.11.2002. The accused Noor Islam, on 2.11.2002, and accused Jahangir @ Gani, Hajiluddin and Zia, on 3.11.2002, were produced before the Magistrate (P.W. 17 Ashuk Kumar Debonath) who on the same date, after observing all the formalities  of law as provided under Section 364 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, recorded their confessional statements. The confessional Statements of  Noor Islam, Md. Ziaur Rahman,  Hajiluddin  @ Azizur Rahman and Md. Jahangir Alam are marked as Exhibits 5, 6, 7 and 8 respectively .

19.          The confessional statement  of accused Md. Noor Islam  recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, marked as Ext. 5, is as follows :-

বাড়ীতে মাস দেড়েক  আগে  শিল্পী খাতুনকে বিয়ে করি। বিয়ের পর শিল্পী ৩ বার আমাদের বাড়ীতে এসেছে। শিল্পী আমার কথা শুনতো না। সে আমার কাছে শুতে চাইতো না। গত শবে বরাতের একদিন আগে আমার বন্ধু জাহাঙ্গীর, জিয়া, আজিজুর ও হাজিল উদ্দিন কে বলি। আমাদের বাড়ির সামনে পুকুর পাড়ে বসে বিকালের দিকে বলি। বন্ধুরা আমাকে জানায় আমরা একটি ব্যবস্থা করছি। ঐ সময় আমার বউ শ্বশুড় বাড়ী ছিল। ওরা আমাকে বলে পরের বৃহস্পতিবারে বউ নিয়ে বাড়ি আয়। আমি ওদের কথা মতে শ্বশুর বাড়ি হতে বউকে নিয়ে গত ৩১/১০/০২ তারিখ সন্ধ্য ৬.৩০ টার দিকে গদখাইল নামি। আমার শ্বশুড় বাড়ি সাতক্ষীরা ঝাউডাংগায়। আমরা বাস থেকে নামার পর ঐ খানে আজিজুল, হাজিল উদ্দিন ও জাহাংগীরকে দেখি। জিয়া ঐ সময় ছিল না।
 

আমি বউ নিয়ে হেটে বাড়ির দিকে রওয়ানা হই । ওরা ৩ জন একটু আগে যায়। পথি মধ্যে রেল ষ্টেশনের দোকান হতে আমি সিগারেট কিনি। মেঠো পথে অর্ধেক পথ যাওয়ার পর খেজুর বাগানের কাছে জিয়া সহ ওদের ৩ জনকেদেখতে পাই। তখন সন্ধ্য ৭.০০ টা হবে। আজিজুল আমার বউয়ের হাত ধরে পেঁপেক্ষেতে নিয়ে যায়। বাকীরাও পিছে পিছে যায়। আমিও যাই। পেঁপে ক্ষেতের মধ্যে নিয়ে প্রথমে আজিজুল আমার বউকে ধর্ষন করে। পরে হাজিল উদ্দিন ধর্ষন করে। আমি কোন বাধাদেই নাই। জিয়া ও জাহাঙ্গীর আমার বউয়ের হাত ধরে রাখে। ধর্ষন করার পর আমার বউ নিস্তেজ হয়ে পড়ে। তখন আজিজুল শাড়ি খুলে আমার বউয়ের গলায়পেঁচদেয় এবং শাড়ির আরেক পাশ ধরতে বলে জিয়াকে। আমি পা ধরি। জাহাঙ্গীর ও হাজিল উদ্দিন হাত ধরে। রাত ৮.০০ টার দিকে আমরা লাশ ঐখানেফেলে রেখে পাশেরখেজুর বাগানে যাই। ওরা আমাকে শিখিয়ে দেয় যে বাড়ি গিয়ে বলতে হবে ডাকাতে আমার বউ নিয়ে গেছে। জিয়া চিৎকার দিয়ে বলে যায়। বাকীরাও যার যার মত চলে যায়। আমি রাত ৯.০০ টার দিকে বাড়ি গিয়ে বলি আমার বউকে ডাকাতে নিয়েগেছে। ঐ রাতে পুলিশ আমাকে গ্রেফতার করে।

20.          The confessional statement of accused  Md. Ziaur Rahman recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, marked as Ext. 6, is as follows :-

গ্রামের বাড়ীতে শবে বরাতের আগের দিন আমি, জাহাঙ্গীর, আজিজুর, ও হাজিল উদ্দিন নুর বক্স সরকারের পুকুরে ছিলাম। এই সময় নুর ইসলাম আসে এবং বলে ওর বউ ওর কথা শুনছে না। ওর বউকে অসম্মান করার ব্যবস্থা করার জন্য আমাদের বলে। তার পরিকল্পনা মোতাবেক ৩১/১০/০২ তাং নুর ইসলাম ওর শ্বশুর বাড়ী হতে বউ নিয়ে আসে সন্ধ্যার দিকে গদখালী বাজারে। গদখালী বাজার থেকে মাঠে যাই।সেখানে হাজিল উদ্দিন, জাহাঙ্গীর ও আজিজুর ছিল। নুর ইসলাম বউ নিয়ে মাঠে আসলে আজিজুর ওর বউকে নিয়ে পেঁপে ক্ষেতে যায়। আমরাও পিছে পিছে যাই।আজিজুর প্রথমে ধর্ষন করে। পরে নুর ইসলাম, হাজিল উদ্দিন, জাহাঙ্গীর ও আমি ধর্ষণ করি। একজন একজন করে করি। আমি ধর্ষন করতে রাজি হইনি।  কিন্তু ওরা সবাই জোর করে আমাকে ধর্ষণ করতে বলে। ধর্ষণ শেষ হলে আজিজুর মেয়েটার শাড়ির আচল দিয়ে পেঁচ দেয়। আমরা অন্যারা হাত পা ধরে রাখি। মেয়েটা মারা যায়। আমরা নুর ইসলামকে শিখিয়ে দেই যেন বাড়ি গিয়ে বলে ওর বউকে ডাকতেরা ছিনতাই করে নিয়ে গেছে ও তাকে খেজুর বাগানে বেধে রেখেছে। তারপর আমরা যার যার মত বাড়ি চলে যাই। শুক্রবার রাতে পুলিশে বাড়ি থেকে আমাকে ধরে থানায় নিয়ে যায়।

21.          The confessional statement  of accused  Md. Hajiluddin @ Azizur Rahman recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, marked as Ext. 7,  is as follows :-

বাড়ীতে শবে বরাতের আগের দিন নুর বক্স সরকারের পুকুরে মাছ ধরতে যাই।সেখানে নুর ইসলাম, জিয়া, জাহাঙ্গীর,আজিজুর (পিং হায়াতুল্লাহ) এর সাথে দেখা হয়। আমরা নুর ইসলামের বিয়ের কথা জিজ্ঞাসা করলে সে জানায়  বউয়ের সাথে তার সম্পর্ক ভালো যাচ্ছে না। তখন নুর ইসলাম আমাদের বলে তোরা আমার বউকে ধর্ষণ করবি। তাহলে সে লজ্জায় আমার বাড়ি ছেড়ে চলে যাবে এবং আমার বিরুদ্ধে মামলা করার সাহস পাবে না’’। নুর ইসলামের কথায় আমরা রাজি হয়ে যাই। আমাদের পরিকল্পনা মোতবেক নুর ইসলাম বউ আনতে শ্বশুর বাড়ি যায়। গত ৩১/১০/০২ তারিখ সন্ধ্যার দিকে নুর ইসলাম বউ নিয়ে গদখালি বাজারে আসে। আমি ও জাহাঙ্গীর আগে থেকে সেখানে অপেক্ষা করছিলাম। বাকী জিয়া ও আজিজুর আমাদের সাথে দেখা করে বাড়ি ফিরে যায় এবং বলে যায় তারা মাঠে আসবে।

আমি ও জাহাঙ্গীর নুর ইসলামের আগে আগে মাঠে চলে যায়। নুর ইসলাম নীলকণ্ঠ নগর মাঠের কাছে বউ নিয়ে আসলে আজিজুর নুর ইসলামকে দাড়াতে  বলে। আজিজুর ও জিয়া আগে থেকেই মাঠে ছিল। নুর ইসলাম তার বউকে আজিজুরের হাতে তুলে দেয়।নুর ইসলামের বউ জানতে চায় কি হয়েছে। আজিজুর ধমক দিয়ে থামিয়ে দেয়। আজিজুর বউকে নিয়ে পেঁপে বাগানের মধ্যে শোয়ায়ে দেয় ও ধর্ষণকরে। মেয়েটা ভয়ে কোন চিৎকার করেনি। আজিজুর পাশে বসে মেয়েটাকে বলে কথা বললে মেরে ফেলবো। এর পর আমি,জিয়া ও জাহাঙ্গীর একজন একজন করে মেয়েটাকে ধর্ষণ করি। আমাদের ধর্ষণ শেষ হওয়ার পর আজিজুর শাড়ি খুলে মেয়েটার গলায় পেচ দেয়। মেয়েটা পা ছটফট করতে থাকে। নুর ইসলাম পা ধরে রাখে। জিয়া ও জাহাঙ্গীর দুই হাত ধরে রাখে। গলায় ফাঁস দেয়ার পর মেয়েটা নিস্তেজ হয়ে যায় ও মারা যায়।আমরা তখন যার যার মত বাড়ি চলে যাই। যাওয়ার আগে নুর ইসলাকে বলে’’ এভাবে আমি বাড়ি গেলে ধরা পড়ে যাবো। আমার হাত বেধে দে। ওর কথা মত ওর নিজের গেঞ্জি দিয়ে আজিজুর ওর হাত বেঁধে দেয় এবং শিখিয়ে দেয় বাড়ি গিয়ে বলতে যে ওর বউ ছিনতাইকারীরা নিয়ে গেছে। শুক্রবার রাত ২/২.৩০টার দিকে আমাকে বাড়ি হতে পুলিশ ধরে।

22.          The confessional statement  of accused  Jahangir Alam recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, marked as Ext. 8,  is as follows :-

গ্রামের বাড়ীতে শবে বরাতের আগের দিন নুর বক্স সরকারের পুকুর পাড়ে আমি, হাফিজ উদ্দিন, জিয়া মাছ ধরতে যাই। নুর ইসলাম ঐ সময় আসে। নুর ইসলামের কাছে আমরা ওর বউয়ের কথা জানতে চাই।নুর ইসলাম জানায় বউ পছন্দ হয়নি। বউয়ের সাথে গোলমাল হচ্ছে। ও বউ ছেড়ে দিতে চায় এবং বলে বউকে অসম্মান করতে হবে।আমাদের পরিকল্পনা মতে ৩১/১০/০২ তাং সন্ধ্যার দিকে নুর ইসলাম ওর বউ শ্বশুর বাড়ি হতে নিয়ে আসে আমি তখন গদখালী স্ট্যান্ডে ছিলাম। কথা মত আমি মাঠে চলে যাই। সেখানে গিয়ে আমি জিয়া,হাফিজ উদ্দিন ও আজিজুর এক হই। একটু পরে নুর ইসলাম ওর বউকে আজিজুরের হাতেদেয়। আজিজুর বউ নিয়ে পেঁপে বাগানে গিয়ে মেয়েটাকে জোর করে ধর্ষন করে। আমরা সাথে সাথে যাই। আজিজুর ধর্ষন করার পর অন্যরাও ধর্ষন করে। ধর্ষন শেষ হলে আজিজুর মেয়েটার শাড়ি খুলে মেয়েটার গলায় পেঁচায়। মেয়েটা মারা যায়। অন্যরা হাত পা ধরে রেখেছিলো। মেয়েটা নিস্তেজ হয়ে যায়। আজিজুর নুর ইসলামকে শিখিয়ে দেয় সে যেন বাড়ি গিয়ে বলে ডাকাতরা তার বউকে নিয়ে গেছে। আজিজুর নুর ইসলামের গেঞ্জি দিয়ে নুর ইসলামের হাত বেঁধে দেয়। পরে যার যার মত বাড়ি চলে যায়।

23.          The confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners are inculpatory in nature and consistent with each other regarding time, place and manner of the occurrence. All the condemned-prisoners in their aforesaid confessional statements  have given a vivid picture of the alleged occurrence disclosing that as pre-meditated the condemned-prisoner, Noor Islam husband of the deceased, Shilpi Khatun to suit his evil design  to get the victim raped by other condemned prisoners  and absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur on the alleged date   took the victim,  Shilpi Khatun to  the alleged place of occurrence where absconding convict  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur,   at first, forcibly  raped the victim and then the other condemned-prisoners  raped her     one after another  and after committing  the gang-rape absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque  @  Azizur caught hold of  the neck of the victim fastening by her sharee which resulted in her death. Condemned-prisoner  Md. Ziaur Rahman @ Zia in his confessional statement stated that condemned-prisoner Noor Islam also raped  the victim Shilpi Khatun. The vivid picture of the  alleged occurrence as narrated by the condemned-prisoners in their aforesaid confessional statements appear to us to be natural. It appears from the aforesaid confessional statements that the Magistrate (P.W. 17 Ashuk Kumar Debonath)  while recording those statements it appeared to him that the said statements were true and made voluntarily  and there was no complaint of maltreatment or injuries  noticed on the person of the accused.
 
24.  
        The Inquest Report of the deceased Shilpi Begum, markd as Ext.10, prepared by P.W. 19 Md. Abdur Rob Akond  who is also the Investigating Officer of the case, found  ligature mark  on the neck and sperm seemed to be present on the private parts. It is further mentioned in the Inquest Report that upon preliminary inquiry it was learnt that the  victim was gang-raped by miscreants  and then  she was done to death by strangulation fastening her  neck by cloth. The testimony of P.W. 19 Abdur Rob Akonda is quite consistent with the Inquest Report, marked as Ext.10, as well as the prosecution case as made in the F.I.R. The Post Mortem  Report of the dead body of Shilpi Khatun, marked as Ext.9, prepared by P.W. 18 Dr. A.R.M. Mostayeen Billah,  shows that there was one ill-diffused  circular and continuous  ligature mark present in the middle part of the neck, breadth  about 4 & 2/3  floor  slightly abraded  and  each margin was congested.  However, it was mentioned in that Post Mortem Report against column  No.11 that vaginal  swab  and RBC  and spermatazoon -  not found. But against column No.9 urinal space  was found congested. If that be so, such congestion might be  the ultimate cause  of frequent penetration  which also  inclines to believe that the victim was gang-raped before she was done to death in the manner as alleged by the prosecution. The Inquest Report, marked as Ext. 10, and the Post Mortem Report, marked as Ext. 9, of the dead body of Shilpi Khatun are quite consistent with the prosecution case as well as with the inculpatory confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners regarding the manner  of occurrence that the victim  was done to death after she being gang-raped. The confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners appear to us to be true and voluntary and there is nothing to disbelieve those statements. From the aforesaid  confessional statements of the condemned-prisoners it is apparent that the victim, Shilpi Khatun was done to death  after she being gang-raped  by the condemned prisoners and the absconding convict-Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur. All the condemned-prisoners in their aforesaid  confessional statements have said corroborating each other  that at the place of occurrence the absconding  accused  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur,  at first, fell the victim  Shilpi Khatun down on the ground at the alleged place of occurrence  and raped her and then the other condemned-prisoners gang-raped her one after another  and after the gang-rape  was over absconding convict-Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur strangulated the victim fastening  her neck by her sharee  which resulted in her death. The said  sharee was found lying beside the dead body which has been marked as material Ext.I. The confessional statements of the concemned-presinorens lend assurance to this independent material evidence whereby Shilpi Khatun was strangulated to death causing ligature mark on her neck which are sufficient to form the basis of conviction of the absconding co-convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur. Co-convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur has been in abscosion since inception of the case which is also a strong circumstance  to show that he was  concerned with the commission of the alleged gang-rape with murder.

25.          P.W. 18 Dr. A.R.M.Mostayeen Billah  was one of the members of the Medical Board who held  the Post Mortem Examination upon the dead body of  Shilpi Khatun and he put his signature on the Post Mortem Report, marked as Ext.9. It appears from the  deposition of P.W. 18 as well as from the Post Mortem Report that the post mortem upon the dead body of Shilpi Khatun was conducted by a Board  of three Medical Officers  of which he was a member. The concerned Doctors in the Board ought to have  given their utmost attention as experts on the physical and pathological condition of each part of the body and to give their  considered medical  opinion  in respect of any abnormality of limbs with possible explanation for such abnormality. An omnibus statement that the death was due to asphyxia  resulting from strangulation which was anti-mortem and homicidal in nature are not enough and not expected from the medical persons  who are presumed to be experts . They ought to be specific in their findings and to the point in indicating  the abnormalities  found in the urinal organ  to be congested  ascertaining it’s specific cause  when the Medical Board found the urinal organ of the dead body to be congested.  In this case, their own report ought to have  put  them on alert that  this might be  a case of rape , as such,  necessary further investigation ought to have been done  by them. But unfortunately, the Board did not even consider it necessary to examine the discharge from vagina  by a Chemical Examiner  and without doing so how could they opine that vaginal swab, RBC and spermatazoon – not found. This only highlights their inefficiency  and indifference to their professional work.

26.          However, in consideration  of the evidence on record including the inculpatory judicial confessional statements of the condemned-prisoners, the Inquest Report  being the first recorded version  of the offence based on actual observation as well as the Post Mortem Report, we have no hesitation  to hold, inspite of the findings of the Doctors  without any comment as to rape,   that the victim, Shilpi  Khatun was gang-raped  by the condemned-prisoners  alongwith the absconding convict- Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur before she met her death  which brings the offence under the ambit of Section 9(3) of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000.

27.          In the instant case, conviction of the condemned-prisoners  and the absconding convict-Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  is solely based on the inculpatory judicial  confessions of the condemned-prisoners supported by other material evidence and attending circumstances. Confession is manifestly a very important and convincing material for proving the offence committed  by such  persons  making confession. According to the Rule of Law conviction can  be based solely on the confession against it’s maker, if it is found voluntary and true though the Rule of Prudence may require some sort of corroboration with giving facts. It is not necessary  that each and every circumstances mentioned in the confession regarding complicity of the accused must independently be corroborated as it is necessary in the case of using the confession  of an accused against his co-accused. It is enough if the general trend of confession is substantiated by the evidence which would tally with what is contained in the confession. For ascertaining as to whether the confession is voluntary and true or not the Court  has to examine the confession itself and also to consider the same in the light of other materials on record and broad probabilities of the case.

28.     The next question arises, whether the confession can be the basis of conviction against the makers  if found retracted. It is well settled that once a confession has been found to be true and voluntary, the conviction of the confessing accused can be based on the said confession, even if it is retracted. This view of ours finds support from the decisions in the cases of Joygun Bibi Vs. The State reported in 12 D.L.R. (SC) 157 and Hozrat Ali and Abdur Rahman -Vs.- the State reported in 42 D.L.R,. (HCD) (1990) 177.

29.          It appears that, in the instant case, the alleged occurrence took place on 31.10.2002 at about 9-30 P.M. and, after the occurrence, on the same night at 12-30 P.M. the condemned-prisoner, Noor Islam was arrested and on the following day i.e. on 1.11.2002 the other 3 condemned prisoners were arrested by the Police. Thereafter, the condemned-prisoner, Noor Islam, on 2.11.2002, and the rest 3 condemned-prisoners, on 3.11.2002, were placed before the Magistrate- P.W. 17, Ashok Kumar Debonath for recording their judicial confessional statements and on those respective dates he recorded the confessional statements of all the 4 condemned prisoners. He has said that while recording their confessional statements he did not notice any mark of torture on their persons.  From the confessional statements of the condemned-presoners, marked as Ext. 5, 6, 7 and 8, we find that while making these confessional statements they also did not disclose to the Magistrate that they were forced, tortured and compelled by Police in making such confessional statements and the same were not voluntary and true. P.W. 19  Abdur  Ron Akand, the Investigation  Officer also denied the defence suggestion that the condemned-prisoners  were tortured after arrest and threatened  to make the confessional statements. We find no reason to disbelieve the evidence of the learned Magistrate. No material could be elicited by the defence that the confession was the result of torture  and maltreatment and hence these were not voluntary and not true as well. There is also nothing to show that the Police or any witness had any reason to falsely implicate the condemned-prisoners and the absconding convict in this case.

30.          Further  it appears that the learned  Magistrate while recording the confessional statements  of the condemned prisoners ascertained that the confessions were voluntary and true and there was also no complaint before him. We find that all the legal procedures were followed in recording the confessions and the learned Magistrate, P.W. 17 gave sufficient  caution and also time for reflection before recording the confessions marked as Exts.5, 6, 7 and 8. The Tribunal below also ascertained the truth as well as the  voluntariness  of the confessions made by the condemned-prisoners. The learned Magistrate  found that the condemned-prisoners gave a full and free account of the occurrence in order to satisfy  that they along with absconding convict were really involved in the commission of the alleged gang-rape  and murder of Shilpi Khatun. It appears from the record that the confession of the condemned   prisoner Noor Islam was recorded on 2.11.2002 and of the rest 3 condemned prisoners on 3.11.2002 and, thereafter, all of them retracted their confessions on 22.4.2003 i.e. after  four months alleging, for the first time, that Police upon torture compelled  them to make such confessional statements which are not at all voluntary and true. The allegation of torture  by the Police  was raised  at a very late stage and there having no material on record to substantiate the same,  we are unable to place any reliance on the allegations made in the said retraction petitions. Nothing could be elicited from the cross-examination of the witnesses that the aforesaid confessions were not voluntary and true and there was also nothing to show that the confessions were obtained by torture or maltreatment of the Police or that the same was the result of inducement.

31.          It is well-settled that once a confession is found to be true and voluntary, the conviction could be based solely on confession, even if it is retracted.

32.          In the absence  of any  positive material to the contrary, the presumption  of correctness  of recording the confessional statements  upon observing all the required legal formalities  can very well be inferred and we have reason to believe that P.W. 17, on being satisfied  that the accused would freely and voluntarily confess their guilt, recorded their confession and that accused also made no complaint before the Magistrate.  We do not find any cogent reason as to why self-implication of the condemned prisoners in the commission of offence cannot be taken as true. Retraction of confession   at an earliest opportunity some time may lend support to the defence plea that the confession was not voluntary one but for the bilated retraction of a confession as in the present case, without any material to support it, no such inference can be drawn. Rather, the consensus of judicial decisions are that an accused may be convicted even on retracted confession, if it is inculpatory and found to be voluntary and true. It has been further contended that prolonged Police custody immediately preceding the confession is sufficient, if not properly explained, to find the confession as involuntary. In the case of  Abdur Rouf and others versus the State reported in 38 D.L.R. 197, the delay in producing  the accused before  the Magistrate  from the Police custody was ignored and it is held, in the absence of any positive material to the contrary, the presumption of correctness of recording  the confessional statement upon observing  all formalities may very well be inferred . In the present case mere keeping three of the condemned prisoners  in Police custody for two days does not ifso facto make the confession involuntary in nature. We are satisfied that all the  legal formalities  have been observed  in this case by the Magistrate in recording the confessional statements marked as Exts. 5, 6, 7 and 8. There is nothing on record to show that the condemned-prisoners made the confessions out of fear or torture or maltreatment of the Police and or that the confession was the result of inducement.

33.          Thus, we are inclined to hold that the aforesaid inculpatory confessional statements made by the condemned-prisoners are voluntary  and true which can alone be the sole basis of their conviction.

34.          On careful consideration of the evidence  and materials on record we hold that the prosecution had satisfactorily  proved  by inculpatory  confessional statements made by the condemned-presioners, attending circumstances and materials on record that the condemned prisoners 1) Noor Islam, 2) Ziaur Rahman @ Zia,   3) Jahangir @ Gani, 4) Hazil Uddin @ Azizur Rahman. and absconding accused   Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur   killed Shilpi Khatun  instantaneously after  committing  gang-rape on her  and they have rightly been found guilty and as such convicted  by the  learned Judge of the Tribunal below under  Section 9(3) of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000.

35.          As regards the sentence passed against the condemned prisoners and absconding convict  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur the learned Advocates appearing for them prayed for commutation of their sentence on ground of long delay in disposal of the Death Reference  and other attending circumstances. Let us now consider as to whether  there are extenuating  circumstances for the commutation of sentence of death of the condemned prisoners  as well as  of the  absconding convict.

36.     It appears that at the time of making of confessional statements the age of the condemned prisoner, Noor Islam was 22 years, Ziaur Rahman, 18 years, Hajiluddin, 24 years and Jahangir Alam,  18 years. Furthermore, since arrest of the condemned-prisoners on 1.11.2002 they had been in custody for about 3 years prior to passing of their order of conviction and sentence on 4.9.2005 and they, having made true and full disclosure  of their guilt in their confessional statements have been languishing in the condemned cell  of the jail custody with much agony and anxiety. Moreover, from the date of making the Death Reference by the Tribunal  below on 5.9.2005  about 5 ½ years have already elapsed, not due to any laches of the condemned prisoners, in the making Death Reference and the Appeals ready for disposal as a result of which also the condemned prisoners have undergone the mental agony and  anxieties of gallows  around their neck for a long period.  Thus, on giving our careful consideration to the delay in disposal of the Death Reference  and Appeals  along with other factors as extenuating  circumstances, we think that the ends of justice would be sufficiently met if we commute the sentence of death  passed upon the condemned prisoners and the absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur to imprisonment for life . Considering the circumstances  mentioned, we are not inclined to set aside the conviction  of the condemned prisoners 1) Noor Islam, 2) Ziaur Rahman @ Zia,   3) Jahangir @ Gani, 4) Hazil Uddin @ Azizur Rahman. and absconding accused   Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur and at the same time we are also not inclined to  accept the reference of death sentence while confirming  the conviction and hence we hereby  commute the sentence of death of all the aforesaid condemned prisoners  and the absconding convict  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur to imprisonment for life. At the same time we consider it expedient to add with the sentence of fine that, in default of payment of such fine as awarded by the Tribunal below, all the aforesaid condemned prisoners and the absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  are to suffer rigorous imprisonment for  two years more each.

37.          All the condemned prisoners and the absconding convict  Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur are entitled to get the benefit as provided  under Sub-Section (1) of Section 35 A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

38.          For the reasons stated above we reject the Death Reference No. 143 of 2005 and also dismiss the Criminal Appeal No. 4095 of 2005 and the Jail Appeal Nos. 1060 of 2005, 1061 of 2005, 1062 of 2005 and 1063 of 2005 of the condemned prisoners with the modification of sentence of all the condemned prisoners  and absconding convict Aaizel @ Aazu @ Azizul Haque @ Azizur  from death to imprisonment  for life and, as to their  sentence   to pay a fine of Tk. 1,00,000/- each, in default to pay the fine, they are to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years more each.

                Ed.