An Appraisal of Sentencing in Bangladesh: Between Conviction and Punishment
Criminal justice system of Bangladesh neither allows any separate sentence hearing nor does it invite any pre-sentence report on the background of the accused when the trial court pronounces its judgments. Our criminal laws provide for numerical sentencing structure without mentioning any stratification of offence level. There is neither specific statutory sentencing policy nor is there any separate sentencing statute. In absence of sentencing guidelines as well as distinctive sentence hearing, the judges often award the sentences mechanically in the exercise of their individual sense of unbridled discretion. Consequently, diversity of sentencing decisions arises for similar category of offences. In practice, a wide- range of mitigating and aggravating factors stemming from the case -laws essentially dominate the sentencing practice in Bangladesh. Non- custodial sentences including verbal sanction, conditional discharge, probation order, community service order, victim compensation order also remain largely unutilised while long custodial sentence and death penalty are frequently imposed in Bangladesh. It is also evident that the huge mass of sentencing factors as reflected in series of precedents, has rather developed in an inchoate manner. Nevertheless, it is possible to condense such sporadic sentencing factors into well- fashioned sentencing guidelines at behest of our apex Court. This article further argues that the accused should be given a separate sentence hearing opportunity so that award of punishment would become more meaningful exercise.