Bangladesh: Requirements and procedures to file a complaint with the police, including reports of false accusations; First Information Reports (FIRs), including registration and whether these reports automatically lead to an investigation; content, appearance and security features of FIRs; whether cases of false accusations are heard in court; ability of the police to share information with other law enforcement departments and/or agencies (2019–December 2021) [BGD200855.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

According to BDLAWNEWS.COM, a Bangladeshi legal news portal, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Penal Code are the "two main criminal laws of Bangladesh" (BDLAWNEWS.COM 23 Aug. 2020). Sources note that these laws are based on the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 for British India (US 1989, 242; BDLAWNEWS.COM 23 Aug. 2020), and that aside from the changes in title and "minor modifications," the documents "more or less remained" the same (BDLAWNEWS.COM 23 Aug. 2020). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor of law at a university in Bangladesh noted that the Code of Criminal Procedure is applicable throughout the country and creates a uniform system (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021).

2. Requirements and Procedures to File a Complaint with the Police

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, a complaint is defined as "the allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, with a view to his taking action under this Code, that some person whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but it does not include the report of a police-officer" (Bangladesh 1898, Sec. 4(1)(h)). According to the Professor, when a person makes a complaint, they are reporting a "possible offence" to the Magistrate who "will hear the complainant, call witnesses if necessary and then order the police to investigate" (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a law professor at the University of Dhaka noted that complaints "can only be made before a magistrate"; however, information can be provided to the police which can lead to the police registering an FIR and investigating the case if the complaint is regarding a cognizable offence (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021).

The Professor at the University of Dhaka indicated that "serious offences" are considered cognizable offences (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). According to a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (Fédération internationale pour les droits humains, FIDH) on enforced disappearance in Bangladesh, under Bangladeshi law cognizable offences "include serious crimes such as rape, murder, theft or kidnapping" (FIDH Apr. 2019, 55). Similarly, a report by the UNDP on criminal justice in Bangladesh indicates that cognizable offences include murder, robbery, rape, theft, rioting, and assault (UN Nov. 2015, 54). The same source states that police can investigate cognizable offences without an order from a magistrate (UN Nov. 2015, 54). The FIDH report indicates that police officers must open investigations in cases of cognizable offences (FIDH Apr. 2019, 55). According to the Professor at a Bangladeshi university, for cognizable offences the police can begin investigating "immediately" (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021). Sources further note that arrests can be made regarding cognizable offences without permission from a judge (FIDH Apr. 2019, 55) or without a warrant (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021; UN Nov. 2015, 54). Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that

54.

  1. Any police-officer may, without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant, arrest-
    firstly, any person who has been concerned in any cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable complaint has been made or credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been so concerned;

(Bangladesh 1898)

The FIDH report states that non-cognizable offences are "less serious crimes," including "misbehaviour, public annoyance, cheating or defamation" (FIDH Apr. 2019, 55). The UNDP report notes that non-cognizable offenses are listed in Schedule II of the Code of Criminal Procedure and include offenses such as "bribery, intentionally wounding someone's religious feelings, causing a miscarriage, voluntarily causing hurt, misappropriation of property, and cheating" (UN Nov. 2015, 54–55). The Professor at the University of Dhaka stated that if the information provided to the police is regarding a non-cognizable offence, it is entered in the General Diary (GD) and referred to the Magistrate and the police are only able to investigate the case of a non-cognizable offence with an order from the Magistrate (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The Professor at a Bangladeshi university noted that for non-cognizable offences permission is required from a Magistrate before an investigation can be opened (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021). Similarly, the UNDP report notes that police can only investigate non-cognizable offences "when ordered to do so by a Magistrate (whether it is reported to the police or a Magistrate)" (UN Nov. 2015, 54). Regarding information given to the police for non-cognizable offences, the Code of Criminal Procedure provides the following:

155.

  1. When information is given to an officer in charge of a police-station of the commission within the limits of such station of a non-cognizable offence, he shall enter in a book to be kept as aforesaid the substance of such information and refer the informant to the Magistrate.
  2. No police-officer shall investigate a non-cognizable case without the order of a Magistrate of the first or second class having power to try such case or [send] the same for trial [***].
  3. Any police-officer receiving such order may exercise the same powers in respect of the investigation (except the power to arrest without warrant) as an officer in charge of a police-station may exercise in a cognizable case. (Bangladesh 1898, footnotes omitted, square brackets and asterisks in original)

According to the FIDH report, GDs are "record-keeping books" required to be in each police station and used by officers-in-charge to record "any noteworthy events" and while all FIRs "should be" recorded in the GD, not all GD entries, which can include complaints about non-cognizable offences, require an FIR to be filed or particular police action to be taken (FIDH Apr. 2019, 55–56).

3. FIRs
3.1 Requirements and Procedures to Register an FIR

According to sources, FIRs are completed for cognizable offences (FIDH Apr. 2019, 55; Law Help BD 23 July 2019; Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). Section 243 of the Police Regulations, Bengal, as provided on the website of the Bangladesh Police, provides the following:

243.

  1. The first information of cognizable crime mentioned in section 154, Code of Criminal Procedure, shall be drawn up by the Officer-in-charge of the police-station in B. P. Form No. 27 in accordance with the instructions printed with it.
  2. The first information report shall be written by the officer taking the information in his own handwriting and shall be signed and sealed by him.
  3. The information of the commission of a cognizable crime that shall first reach the police, whether oral or written, shall be treated as the first information. It may be given by a person acquainted with the facts directly or on hearsay, but in either case it constitutes the first information required by law, upon which the enquiry under se2tiou [sic] 157, Code of Criminal Procedure, shall be taken up. When hearsay information of a crime is given, the station officer shall not wan [sic] to record, as the first information, the statement of the actual complainant or an eye-witness.
  4. A vague rum our [sic] shall be distinguished from a hearsay report. It shall not be reduced to writing or signed by the informant, but entered in the general diary, and should it, on subsequent information prove well-founded, such subsequent information shall constitute the first information.

… (Bangladesh 1943)

The Professor at a Bangladeshi university stated that the procedure for filing an FIR is as follows: an FIR is lodged at a police station; the informant tells the police who recorded it; the informant reads and verifies that the information was recorded correctly; and then both the recording police officer and the informant sign the form, which is then given a registration number and recorded in a registrar (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021). According to the Professor at the University of Dhaka, anyone can provide information orally or in writing to the police regarding a cognizable offence (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). Sources note that information provided orally (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021) or orally or written (Law Help BD 29 July 2019) is written down by the officer and signed by the informant (Law Help BD 29 July 2019; Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). Law Help BD, a Bangladeshi online legal education platform (Law Help BD n.d.a), which is edited by an editorial board made up of lawyers and law students (Law Help BD n.d.b; Law Help BD n.d.c; Law Help BD n.d.d), states that after the informant signs the FIR, the police officer completes B.P. Form Number 27 (Law Help BD 23 July 2019). According to sources, the process is the same across the country (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021; Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021).

The Professor at the University of Dhaka noted that in practice "most" FIRs are investigated (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). Section 157 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides the following regarding why an FIR would not be investigated:

  1. when any information as to the commission of any such offence is given against any person by name and the case is not of a serious nature, the officer in charge of a police- station need not proceed in person or depute a subordinate officer to make an investigation on the spot;
  2. if it appears to the officer in charge of a police-station that there is no sufficient ground for entering on an investigation, he shall not investigate the case.

… (Bangladesh 1898)

The Professor at the University of Dhaka noted that if the police choose not to investigate, the magistrate can order the police to conduct an investigation (Professor at the university of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021).

3.2 Content, Appearance, and Security Features of FIRs

According to the Professor at the University of Dhaka, an FIR is completed using B.P. Form Number 27 according to the instructions printed on it and contains the "stamp of the police station and signature (with seal) of the officer-in-charge of the police station" (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The same source further noted that B.P. Form Number 27 is the same nationally with no variation between police division or unit (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The English and French translations of a sample of a completed FIR, which was provided by the Professor at the University of Dhaka, are attached to this Response. According to Law Help BD, the elements which "must" be present on an FIR include the following:

  • Name of the [p]olice [s]tation
  • Name, [i]dentity and address of the informant
  • Name and other information of [the] accused ([i]f possible)
  • Date and time of the crime/offence
  • Place of the [o]ffence
  • Name of the witness (if any)
  • Sign[ature] or [t]humb impression of the informant. (Law Help BD 23 July 2019)

The same source further notes that additional information which is not required but can be provided, and which can be used as "support" during a trial, includes the following:

  • If [f]iling of FIR is delayed; reason and explanation of that delay.
  • Describing the incident step by step with time schedule[.]
  • Any previous reference of enmity between the accused and the victim[.]
  • Medical report if already obtained, but do not wait for a medical report as it will be collected by police during the investigation.
  • Mention any other incident, connection, document, report if related to that offence. (Law Help BD 23 July 2019)

The Professor at a Bangladeshi university noted that FIRs have "no digital security features" (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021).

3.3 Availability of Fraudulent FIRs

According to the Professor at the University of Dhaka, FIRs "can contain false information" but they had "never heard of any fraudulent FIR[s]" (Professor at the university of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The same source further stated that, "in some cases" through collusion between the individual and the courts copying department officials, fraudulent or forged certified copies of FIRs "can" be obtained (Professor at the university of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). According to a country report on Bangladesh by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), "[c]orruption is widespread in the courts and the police" which makes it "possible" to obtain fraudulent documents and the court and police systems "are heavily bureaucratic and often paper based, which can limit the ability to detect fake documents" (Australia 22 Aug. 2019, para. 5.44). For further information on the availability of fraudulent documents in Bangladesh, see Response to Information Request BGD200853 of December 2021.

4. Procedures for Filing Police Complaints for Those Who Have Been Falsely Accused of a Crime

According to the Professor at the University of Dhaka, "[t]here are many cases of false accusations" but there is "no official/research data available on the extent the problem" (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). Section 193 of the Penal Code provides that

193. Whoever intentionally gives false evidence in any stage of judicial proceeding, or fabricates false evidence for the purpose of being used in any stage of a judicial proceeding, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine;

and whoever intentionally gives or fabricates false evidence in any other case, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

… (Bangladesh 1860)

Section 211 of the Penal Code provides the following:

211. Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both;

and if such criminal proceeding be instituted on a false charge of an offence punishable with death, [imprisonment] for life, or imprisonment for seven years or upwards, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. (Bangladesh 1860, footnotes omitted)

Section 279 of the Police Regulations, Bengal provides that

279.

  1. Whenever a case reported to the police is found after investigation to be maliciously false, the investigating officer shall, if evidence is available for prosecution of the complainant under section 182 or 211, Indian penal Code, submit to the Magistrate, through the Circle Inspector a formal complaint, attached to his final report, to enable the Magistrate to take cognizance of the case under Section 190, Code of Criminal Procedure [under proviso (aa) to section 200 of that Cod [sic] the Magistrate need not examine the complainant]. The investigating officer shall at the same time furnish the Court officer with a brief of the case.
  2. Prosecutions against complainants in false cases shall be instituted only when the charges made are deliberately and maliciously false and not when they are merely exaggerated.
  3. The Circle Inspector shall, after satisfying himself that the complainant is well founded and that all possible enquiries have been made to collect the requisite evidence, forward the complaint to the Magistrate.
  4. If a complaint case referred to the police for investigation is found to be maliciously false, the investigating officer shall submit, together with the final report, a report to the Magistrate through the Circle Inspector giving the grounds on which the vase [sic] is held to be false and recommending as to whether the complainant should be prosecuted. (Bangladesh 1943)

4.1 Police Corruption

According to Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI) 2020, which "assesses the transformation toward democracy and a market economy as well as the quality of governance in 137 countries," "[c]orruption remains endemic" in Bangladesh, with the police force viewed "as the most corrupt branch" (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 2, 10). The same source further notes that the police were employed by the government to file "false" cases against supporters of the opposition party and ordinary citizens, "many of whom had to pay bribes in order to escape prosecution in false cases" (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 3). According to an Al Jazeera article, Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front), a major opposition party, "accused the government of carrying out mass arrests of its leaders and supporters" leading up to the 2018 parliamentary elections, stating in a press release that "[a]bout 7000" activists and leaders were arrested from November to December 2018 (Al Jazeera 24 Dec. 2018). Similarly, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the arrest and detention of political opponents during the 2018 elections, which is based on "more than 50 interviews with political activists, students, and members of civil society," and analysis of court records and secondary sources, indicates that in December 2018 "[t]housands of cases" had been brought against opposition leaders and supporters in the months leading up to the elections and according to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), "over 300,000 of its leaders and activists have been implicated in 'false and fabricated' cases" (HRW Dec. 2018, 2, 4). Freedom House states that "[s]uspects are routinely subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, demands for bribes, and physical abuse by police" (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. F2). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020, "[a]rbitrary arrests occurred," and human rights activists "claimed police falsely constructed cases to target opposition leaders, workers, and supporters" and the government used the police to "crack down on political rivals" (US 30 Mar. 2021, 9). According to an HRW report on violence against girls and women in Bangladesh—which is based on 50 interviews, including 29 interviews with women from six of the eight divisions of Bangladesh who are survivors of gender-based violence, and interviews with women's rights activists, lawyers, and academics—in "many cases" women told HRW that police "required" a bribe before they would complete an FIR and "[s]ome" survivors reported that even when paying bribes, "they heard that the accused was paying more, influencing the investigation in their favor" (HRW 29 Oct. 2020, 2, 39–40, 41).

An article from the Daily Star, "a non-partisan" (The Daily Star n.d.) daily English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, notes that police headquarters introduced a "complaint cell" of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) so that anyone can call or email to "lodge [a] complaint against misdeeds and mismanagement of the law enforcers" (The Daily Star 13 Nov. 2017). An article from the Business Standard, a news platform based in Dhaka aimed at promoting "good governance and best practices in business and economy" (The Business Standard n.d.), states that from November 2017 to 21 August 2019, the IGP's complaint cell received 3,493 complaints about the police, including the "most common allegations" of "[m]anipulation of cases, detention of people without any ground, intimidation, extortion, bribery and corruption in various forms" with "around" 1,000 "low-ranking" police officers found guilty of "various misdeeds" and with "departmental action" taken against them (The Business Standard 1 Sept. 2019). According to an article from the Independent, a daily English-language Bangladeshi newspaper, "[o]n average, over 12,000 police personnel are handed punishment every year on various charges including misconduct and corruption" (The Independent 22 Jan. 2020).

5. Sharing of Information by the Police with Other Law Enforcement Agencies

The Police Regulations, Bengal provide that

246.

  1. The first page of the first information report, viz., that signed. scaled [sic] or marked by the complainant or informant under section 54. Code of Criminal Procedure shall be treated as the original. It shall be sent without delay to the District Magistrate or the Sub- divisional Magistrate. as the case may be, through the court officer. The first carbon copy of the first information shall be sent to Superintendent. The second copy shall be kept at the police-station for future reference. A copy not carbon) shall be sent to the Circle Inspector direct at the same time as the original and the first carbon copy are dispatched to the Court Officer and the Superintendent. In subdivision where there is a Sub-divisional Police Officer two copies of the first information report shall be made out on ordinary papers, by the carbon one [sic] for the Sub-divisional Police Officer and the other for the Circle Inspector.

… (Bangladesh 1943, Sec. 246)

According to the Professor at the University of Dhaka, there is no national database with "all" FIRs; FIRs are produced in hardcopy and when an FIR is created, there are also two carbon copies produced with the first copy of an FIR being sent to the magistrate court in the district, the second copy to the chief police officer in the district, and the third copy kept at the police station (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The same source further stated that "sometimes" the police give the informant an "informal copy" of the FIR and an informant can also apply to the court for a certified copy indicating "'in the object for which the copy is required'" and if the court grants the application, the applicant upon payment of "prescribed fees" will receive a certified copy (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The source also noted that a third-party can obtain an FIR from the court on behalf of the informant when the third-party is able to "satisfy the court with 'good reasons'" (Professor at the University of Dhaka 29 Nov. 2021). The Professor at a Bangladeshi university stated that police officers from one station can investigate or make an arrest on behalf of police in a different jurisdiction upon request from the police in the other jurisdiction if the accused is located in that jurisdiction (Professor at a university in Bangladesh 1 Dec. 2021).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Al Jazeera. 24 December 2018. Saqib Sarker. "Bangladesh Opposition Alleges Mass Arrests Ahead of Polls." [Accessed 9 Dec. 2021]

Australia. 22 August 2019. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT Country Information Report: Bangladesh. [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

Bangladesh. 1943. Police Regulations, Bengal. [Accessed 29 Nov. 2021]

Bangladesh. 1898. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. [Accessed 29 Nov. 2021]

Bangladesh. 1860. The Penal Code, 1860. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2021]

BDLAWNEWS.COM. 23 August 2020. "Criminal Law and Types of Criminal Law in Bangladesh." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020. "Bangladesh Country Report." Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) 2020. [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

The Business Standard. 1 September 2019. Zia Chowdhury. "Complaints Against Police Piling Up at IGP's Cell." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

The Business Standard. N.d. "About Business Standard." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2021]

The Daily Star. 13 November 2017. "IGP's Complaint Cell Opened." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

The Daily Star. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2021]

Fédération internationale pour les droits humains (FIDH). April 2019. Vanished Without a Trace: The Enforced Disappearance of Opposition and Dissent in Bangladesh. No. 735a. [Accessed 18 Nov. 2021]

Freedom House. 3 March 2021. "Bangladesh." Freedom in the World 2021. [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 29 October 2020. "I Sleep in My Own Deathbed." Violence Against Women and Girls in Bangladesh: Barriers to Legal Recourse and Support. [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). December 2018. "Creating Panic": Bangladesh Election Crackdown on Political Opponents and Critics. [Accessed 9 Dec. 2021]

The Independent [Bangladesh]. 22 January 2020. Deepak Acharjee. "Law on Cards for More Discipline in Police." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021]

Law Help BD. 23 July 2019. Rayhanul Islam. "All About First Information Report (FIR)." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2021]

Law Help BD. N.d.a. "What Is LawHelpBD?" [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021]

Law Help BD. N.d.b. "Rayhanul Islam." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2021]

Law Help BD. N.d.c. "Jubaida Sakin." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2021]

Law Help BD. N.d.d. "Raihan Rahman Rafid." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2021]

Professor, university in Bangladesh. 1 December 2021. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Professor, University of Dhaka. 29 November 2021. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

United Nations (UN). November 2015. UN Development Programme (UNDP), Justice Sector Facility (JSF). Criminal Justice in Bangladesh: A Best Practise Handbook for Members of the Criminal Justice System. By Greg Moran. [Accessed 9 Dec. 2021]

United States (US). 30 March 2021. Department of State. "Bangladesh." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2021]

United States (US). 1989. Library of Congress. "National Security." By Douglas C Makeig. Bangladesh: A Country Study. Edited by James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden. Area Handbook Series. [Accessed 8 Dec. 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Asian Human Rights Commission; Bangladesh – Bangladesh Bar Council, Bangladesh Police, Police Staff College Bangladesh; Bangladeshi Lawyers Association of Canada; Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust; Dhaka – Dhaka Metropolitan Police; head of the law department at a Bangladeshi university; law firm in Bangladesh specializing in criminal law; law professor at a Bangladeshi university (2); lawyer in Bangladesh; Madaripur Legal Aid Association.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Asian Human Rights Commission; Bangladesh – National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, Supreme Court of Bangladesh; Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust; BBC; bdnews24.com; Belgium – Commissariat général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides; Commonwealth Law Bulletin; Denmark – Danish Immigration Service; Dhaka – Dhaka Metropolitan Police; Dhaka Tribune; ecoi.net; EU – European Asylum Support Office; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; The Guardian; International Crisis Group; International Society for Human Rights; Ireland – Refugee Documentation Centre; The New Humanitarian; Norway – Landinfo; Organisation suisse d'aide aux réfugiés; Police Behavior, Hiring, and Crime Fighting: An International View; Transparency International; UK – Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Home Office; UN – Committee Against Torture, Refworld; University of Dhaka – Department of Philosophy.

Attachment

Bangladesh. 2015. Sample of a First Information Response (FIR). Sent to the Research Directorate by a professor at the University of Dhaka, 29 November 2021. Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada.