This edition of ‘From the Court Corridor’ curates the notable pronouncements of the High Court Division (HCD) of the Supreme Court (SC) of Bangladesh in June 2021.
Issuing a rule regarding the usage of derogatory phrases in Talaq notice
The HCD bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman in a writ petition issued a rule asking the concerned authority to show cause why the customary practice of using phrases like ‘wife’s being disobedient to husband’ and ‘completely contradictory to Sharia’ in Talaq notice wouldn’t be declared illegal and unconstitutional.
The writ petition was filed by a woman in 2017 challenging the legality of using these offensive phrases. The petitioner was an academician based in Canada who received a Talaq notice from her husband comprising the abovementioned derogatory and irrational words and felt humiliated by them.
The petitioner’s lawyer Abdullah Al Noman argued that using phrases like ‘wife’s being disobedient to husband’ and ‘completely contradictory to Sharia’ in a practicing customary notice is derogatory and as such is against article 11 of the constitution of Bangladesh. Article 11 of the constitution of Bangladesh says that the republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of a person shall be guaranteed. Therefore, using such abusive and discriminatory phrases is illegal and unconstitutional.
The theme of the constitution of Bangladesh is to establish a society free from exploitation where everyone’s fundamental rights would be ensured. Both the article 27 and 28 of the constitution establish the equality of every citizen. Since these phrases in concern are used specifically against women, it is humiliating for any woman. Such practice is discriminatory as well as illegal. Recently, the HCD ordered a verdict of disqualifying women from the Nikah registrar which was criticized for discriminating against women. Therefore, this particular order is a ray of hope and thus commendable.
Directing BIWTC and CDC to pay Taka 15 lakh to each of the victim’s family
On 28 June 2021 a bench of the HCD constituted of Justice Md Ashraful Kamal and Justice Razik Al Jali has directed the Bangladesh Inland Water Transportation Corporation (BIWTC) and Chattogram District Council (CDC) to pay a compensation of 15 lakh taka for each of the 18 victims families within 60 days of the verdict.
On 2 April 2017 a passenger’s boat of at least 50 people was capsized in rough weather, where 30 people were rescued and a total of 18 people died.
A Writ Petition was filed on 2 April 2017. From the petitioner’s lawyer, Md Abdul Halim, it was argued that the concerned authority, BIWTC, was bound to ensure the safe journey of the vessels as per The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation Order (President’s Order No 28) of 1972 and the Inland Shipping Ordinance, 1976. The authority was negligent in ensuring the safety of the vessel. The court found negligence of BIWTC and CDC for the boat capsize.
According to section 12 (1) of The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation Order (President’s Order No 28) of 1972, the corporation is bound to provide a safe journey and to that, all necessary steps need to be arranged. Frequently, it has been seen that authorities are negligent to take required measures to provide safety to the people. The state through its authorities concerned must ensure safety to the people. Otherwise, the state shall pay compensation for violating human rights. It is praiseworthy that HCD is now more commiserate to grant public law compensation.
Directing eviction of all shops from the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project within 60 days
The HCD bench of Justice Md Ashraful Kamal and Justice Razik Al Jalil has issued ten points directives and ordered the authorities concerned to evict all business structures including restaurants and shops that are constructed beyond the layout plan of the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project.
On 9 September 2018 lawyer Ripan Barai on behalf of the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) filed a writ petition challenging the legality of construction work at the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project. The court observed that the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project is the lung of Dhaka city and protection of this project is indispensable.
The court further declared the project as ‘public trust’, making its protection indispensable. The court directed the government to appoint the engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and the 24th brigade of the army as permanent consultants for the project. Moreover, the court added that it is necessary to build up an underground washroom for the people, provisions for safe drinking water, and separate paths for the bicycle and the disabled persons.
Previously we have seen that most of the rivers, canals and beels are dying though many guidelines and directives have been issued to protect those living entities. The term ‘Public trust’ means using something for the public beneficiary or the public use. The state must protect the public beneficiary living entity. So, HCD did a notable job by issuing directives for protecting the lungs of Dhaka city.
Issuing a rule to introduce biometric data management in jails to identify prisoners
The HCD bench of Justice Jahangir Hossain Selin and Justice Mohammad Ataur Rahman has issued a rule asking why the concerned authorities of the government are not providing directives to introduce biometric identification systems such as fingerprints, thumbprints, and iris scanning to identify prisoners.
On 16 June 2021 the apex court issued a rule against the backdrop of an HC order to release an innocent woman named Minu Akter. In a conviction of murder charges, Minu Akter was imprisoned for life in Chattogram jail for three years instead of the actual accuser Kulsumi. The court asked Chattogram Women and Child Abuse and Repression Tribunal-2, Special Public Prosecutor MA Naser, and lawyers Nurul Anwar, Vivekananda Chowdhury, and Saurabh to appear in the court to provide proper explanations for the case incident of mistaken identity.
The Petitioner’s lawyer Shishir Monir told the court that there had been 26 such incidents in the country in the last 2 years where innocent people were sent to prison instead of the people convicted in court. For that reason, he urged the court to introduce biometric identification systems like the high-security prisons of abroad.
The HCD issued a commendable rule. The prison administration system in Bangladesh is very weak. It is such a humiliation to imprison an innocent individual instead of the real accused. It is high time the authorities digitalized the prison system to ensure faultless identification.