A Dhaka court on Sunday sentenced two drivers and a helper of two buses to life term imprisonment in the case over a 2018 road accident in the capital that killed two college students and injured 10 to 15 others.
The accident, caused by a reckless race between two buses of the Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan company, on the Airport Road killed Diya Khanam Mim, 17, and Abdul Karim Rajib, 18 – both students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College – on July 29, 2018.
The reckless and tragic road accident sparked a country-wide non-violent student protests, including a seemingly unstoppable one in the capital, for safe roads across the country.
Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge KM Imrul Kayes pronounced the verdict against the drivers – Masum Billah and Zobair Sumon – and helper of one of the buses Kazi Asad, also fining them Tk 50,000 each, in default, to suffer six more months in jail, for committing culpable homicide.
Masum and Zobair heard the verdict from the dock while Asad was still absconding.
The court, however, acquitted one of the bus owners Jahangir Alam and helper Enayet of the bus driven by Masum as the accusations against them were not proved.
The court found that helper Enayet repeatedly warned driver Masum Billah to drive the bus carefully and of consequences of reckless driving.
Besides, the prosecution could not prove the charge of negligence against Jahangir, the court said.
The court observed that the drivers and helpers drove the vehicles roughly only for earning a small amount of money.
‘The incident involving Rajib and Diya touched the heart of the nation and the civil society. The drivers and the helper engaged in a competition knowing its consequences and did so only to pick a passenger for earning extra money without showing minimum honour to human beings,’ the court said.
They had been driving heavy vehicles without having licenses from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, it added.
‘Everywhere in the country, drivers and helpers recklessly do the driving, killing citizens, including students, which should be stopped. Owners of vehicles also create pressure on drivers and helpers to pay more money by giving them vehicles on contract. This is why drivers and helpers engage in competition to carry more and more passenger to earn more and more,’ the court said.
Besides, the drivers having licenses to drive light vehicles should be kept away from driving heavy vehicles, the court observed.
The court announced the verdict after examining 37 prosecution witnesses.
Defence lawyer Hasim Uddin said that his clients were denied justice, adding that the court handed the sentence based only on the judicial statements from 164 of the accused and on student protests.
His clients would go to the higher court challenging the verdict, he said and added: ‘The court did not examine any eyewitness in the case.’
Public prosecutor Abu Abdullah, however, said that the prosecution could prove the case against the accused and that the road sector would be peaceful because of this judgment.
Diya and Rajib were killed and 10-15 others injured as one of the two buses of the Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan company involved in a race ploughed through a number of students on Airport Road in front of Kurmitola General Hospital on July 29, 2018.
Victim Mim’s father Jahangir Alam lodged a case with Dhaka Cantonment Police Station in this connection.
The police at the time said that the buses did not have route permits and the drivers proper licenses.
On September 6, 2018, inspector Kazi Shariful Islam of the detective branch of police who investigated the case submitted charge sheet against six people – drivers Masum and Zobair, helpers Asad and Enayet and bus owners Jahangir and Shahadat Hossain – and the court accepted the charges.
On October 25, 2018, the Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge’s court indicted the six and their trial began on November 1.
On November 7 the same year, a High Court bench stayed the trial proceedings against Shahdat as he challenged indicting him in the case.
The trial of the remaining five ended on November 14, 2019.
The tragic end of the two students on road angered the students across the country, including Dhaka, and they took to the streets protesting against the incident and to press home a set of demands.
Those included taking all responsibilities by the government of the families of the deceased and injured, compelling the buses to carry students, half fare for them, not allowing buses without fitness and driven by any unlicensed driver anywhere in the country and ban on carrying passengers by public transports in excess of their capacity, highest punishment for the bus drivers responsible for the killing of the two, establishing footbridges and taking safety measures for safe movement of students, establishing speed-breakers in accident-prone areas including in front of the schools and colleges.
Most of their demands are yet to be fulfilled.
Against the backdrop of student protests and demand from other road safety campaigners, the Jatiya Sangsad on September 19, 2018 passed the Road Transport Act 2018 which was put into effect on November 1, 2019.
However, the government backed out of implementing the new law in the face of country-wide protests from road transport owners and workers who wanted suspension of the law until further amendments.