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 July 2021.

Ensuring health safety while arresting lockdown violators

On 25 August the HCD urged the attorney general to meet with the relevant authorities to guarantee that health safety standards are followed when detaining Covid lockdown rule-breakers. It also urged them to maintain proper precautions while transporting the detainees to police stations, and bringing them before lower courts.

Lawyer Md Asad Uddin placed the issue before the court and said that every day roughly 400-500 people are imprisoned and penalized for infringing the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Around 30-50 of them are crammed into a single prison vehicle and driven to the police station and court, disregarding health and safety regulations. Justice Enayetur Rahim warned Attorney General Amin Uddin, “Health safety cannot be compromised while penalizing rule-breakers.”

Attorney General Amin Uddin responded that he would communicate to the authorities involved about this issue so that proper procedures are implemented to enforce health safety rules when the arrestees are conveyed to police stations and produced before courts. Learned Justice M Enayetur Rahim also instructed the attorney general to speak with the Supreme Court’s registrar general to determine what other steps should be taken regarding this issue. 

With no doubt this issue involves a very critical concern of the current status quo regarding the on-going pandemic. As such, the court has correctly observed the merit of the case and through its diligent judgment it has upheld the rights of its citizens. Given the scenario, it is the duty of the concerned authority to maintain proper precautions and ensure physical safety to the arrestees. This not only would uphold the dignity of the citizens, but also will help the country to fight the pandemic with due precautionary measures. Penalizing rule-breakers by compromising the health safety protocols cannot be entertained at any cost. Therefore, it is expected that the court will make its decision absolute and thereby secure the health safety standards of the detainees.  

Issuing a rule as to why the inconsistency in the definition of freedom fighters will not be considered illegal

The HCD raised a question regarding various declarations of the definition of the freedom fighters at different times. Recently the HCD issued a rule asking why this inconsistency in the definition of freedom fighters given by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and that of recently used ones will not be considered illegal. Similarly, it also asked in the rule as to why the list of freedom fighters based on laal-muktibarta, other unauthorized documents and various definitions declared at different times will not be declared illegal and out of legal authority. The law secretary, secretary of the Ministry of the Liberation War Affairs and the director of the national Freedom fighters council are asked to send a reply within four weeks of this ruling. 

A writ was filed on this issue of dissimilarity in the definition of freedom-fighters due to differences in declarations from time to time. The petitioner also questioned the authenticity of the list of freedom fighters given by Laal-Muktibarta which is considered as a document above question though it has no legal approval. 

Liberation war and freedom-fighters are intertwined with the heart and soul of our country. It has a great impact on our  history as well as our day-to-day life. Inconsistencies with the actual definition of freedom-fighters, our national heroes,  given by the founder of our nation are unacceptable at any cost. Declarations and documentation made time to time by various authorities led to such discrepancies which will have a serious toll on our national history. Without authenticity and legal approval no list of freedom-fighters made under definitions of unauthorized documents will not be considered legal. Therefore, the  rule issued by the HC is very relevant involving a crucial issue of our nation which is expected to be manifested with due diligence and rigour. 

Ordering to disclose in public the list of injured in the Hashem food factory fire accident

In the fire accident at Hasem Food industry in Rupganj of Narayanganj, to accommodate 5 crore taka to each of the families of the deceased workers and 1 crore taka to the injured workers as compensation, a writ was filed by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and Safety and Rights Society. During the hearing the HCD ordered to disclose the list of the injured workers in public. It also asked the Attorney General to speak to the respective secretaries of the Labour and Health ministry to ensure proper treatment to the injured labourers. 

The HCD shared its deep condolences to all the persons affected in this accident and hoped not to face any such tragic incident in future. It also mentioned that just like the citizens of the country, the HC is also concerned about this accident and its sufferers. All the points stated by the petitioners are addressed by the bench with due observation and the mechanism of relief and compensation is under process. 

On 8 July a deadly fire razed Hashem Foods Limited in Rupganj of Narayanganj, killing at least 51 workers and staffers of the factory. A number of workers were missing in the accident and 25 workers were severely injured. The concerned citizens of the country raised some issues which include but not limited to- a 35,000 square-foot building was built as a warehouse which suddenly was being used for production with no minimum fire safety. Each of the floors was also packed with flammable objects. Even the sights of child labour is found who were caged by iron netting inside the building. 

Such a catastrophic incident with severe  human rights violation is utterly unexpected and would be written in the black pages of history. To avoid such dreadful consequences it is time necessary measures are taken. Moreover, through this order of the HCD the actual extent of the loss and injury can be understood by the public. It would enable the authorities concerned to be more precautious in future. The notable order of the HCD, therefore, is really praiseworthy and pertinent given the serious violation of human rights and failure of the duty of the concerned authority to ensure occupational safety and security to the workers. 

Making derogatory comments on Facebook a heinous offence

On 8 July the High Court termed  making disrespectful comments about someone on Facebook as a heinous offence. The bench explained the reason that through such acts the victim can suffer terrible psychological and social consequences.

In a recent case on June 4 Dolly Akhter, a teacher at Barguna Sadar upazila’s Latabaria Government Primary School, filed a charge under the Digital Security Act against Md Akhtaruzzaman, a bank official, and his wife Tamanna Begum at Barguna Police Station. Dolly claimed that Tamanna used a bogus Facebook ID to make a disparaging comment about her on 13 May in the case. As a result, her reputation has been tarnished, and she has suffered major social and mental consequences.

However, the court granted bail to the couple. Md Sagir Hossain Leon, Akhtaruzzaman and Tamanna’s lawyer, stated that there is no legal obstacle to his clients’ release following the HCD ruling.

This pronouncement, undoubtedly, involves a crucial issue of present time regarding social media abuse and harassment. Such acts are directly intertwined with the mental health of victims. Previously we have seen cases of severe negative impact of such acts which even led to suicide. As such, the court has correctly observed the gravity of the case and consequently issued such a rule. It is expected that the court will establish the pertinent ruling in light of the pronouncement to uphold the rights of the citizens and make their day to day life easier and comfortable under the protection and safety in social media and cyber activities. 

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