President exempts ex-Kurigram DC Sultana from punishment over jailing of reporter

Two-year freeze on pay hike of ex-Kurigram DC Sultana | bdnews24.com
President Abdul Hamid has set aside the punishment handed down to Sultana Pervin, former deputy commissioner of Kurigram, over her role in the controversial jailing of a reporter.

The government suspended her salary increment for two years but the penalty was scrapped by the president while Sultana has also been relieved of liability in the incident, the public administration ministry announced in a notice on Nov 23.

Sultana, a deputy secretary-level civil servant, is currently an officer on special duty or OSD, which is seen as a punitive measure in the Bangladesh Civil Service.

Ariful Islam, a journalist of online web portal Bangla Tribune, was detained at midnight and sentenced by a mobile court, the notice read.

Consequently, she faced a departmental case on charges of ‘misconduct’ under the Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 2018.

In March last year, the ministry asked for her explanation over the matter.

Sultana then submitted a written answer and sought a private hearing later in June that year.

Following the hearing in August, an investigation board was formed to look into the case after both her written and oral accounts were deemed unsatisfactory, according to the notice.

The board’s report mentioned that there was evidence of Sultana’s “misconduct”.

The public administration ministry’s notice cited the report and issued a second notice asking for a written explanation from her.“

Considering the reply and the importance of the allegations, relevant administrative matters and the investigation report, a decision was made to suspend her salary hike for two years following the Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 2018… due to the charges of misconduct being proven in the departmental case.”

Journalist Ariful, who also works for the Dhaka Tribune, was detained and jailed by a mobile court on “flimsy” narcotics charges. The reporter also alleged that he was tortured in custody after his midnight detention.

Ten months earlier, Ariful criticised the district administration in a report run by the Bangla Tribune on May 19, 2019. His report highlighted Sultana’s purported intention to name a government pond in the town after herself following its renovation.

Sultana had ordered the mobile court to punish Ariful, his family complained.

Ariful alleged he had been stripped of his clothes and beaten up severely in custody, while pictures on social media showed marks of injury on his body.

The authorities withdrew Senior Assistant Commissioner Najimuddin, Assistant Commissioners Rintu Chakma and SM Rahatul Islam after the incident.

Sultana was suspended on Mar 16 and placed under the ministry for her next posting.

The departmental case was then filed against three individuals, including Sultana, on Mar 26 last year.

'WHERE'S MY REDRESS?'

Journalist Ariful lamented the decision to absolve Sultana and said, "The president can impose any decision. But I am disappointed. The crime was committed against me.

"Exempting the penalty means there was no crime committed against me. I cannot accept it. Where's the redress for me then?"

"I was agitated when the penalty was light. And when that light penalty too got dismissed, I see little hope. It is a great disappointment for the journalist community," Ariful said.

Questioning the directives of the Employee Discipline and Appeal Rules for government workers in Bangladesh, Ariful said, "Government employees will commit crimes without any restraint and the crimes will be ignored when it comes to punishment - I think these laws and directives are unconstitutional.

"If special treatment is provided to those who receive their salaries and allowances from public money, then I think it's unconstitutional."