This edition of ‘From the Court Corridor’ curates the notable pronouncements of the High Court Division (HCD) and the Appellate Division (AD) of the Supreme Court (SC) of Bangladesh in April 2022.

The AD blasted the government for acquiring land without rehabilitation  

A bench of AD blasted the government for acquiring a piece of land at Moghbazar in Dhaka as a vested property for the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) Administration Multiple Welfare Cooperative Society (AMWCS) without rehabilitating its current occupant.

On 3 April 2022 the AD bench of Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, Justice Obaidul Hassan and Justice M Enayetur Rahim came up with such directives after hearing a petition of leave to appeal by the government challenging an HCD verdict. 

In a case of 2012, where the HCD had declared it illegal and canceled the acquisition of 19.5 kathas of land in Moghbazar owned by Birendranath Roy and by power of attorney mutated to Sirajul Haq in 1946. After the death of Sirajul Haq, the land ministry decided to acquire the plot in favor of the BCS AMWCS. His wife Maleka Siraj, with their children, challenged the land administration’s decision. However, in 2010 the police beat Maleka and her children and evicted them from the land illegally. The land is vested under the possession of the BCS AMWCS near Ad-Deen Hospital at Moghbazar and Maleka along with her sons and daughter are living nearby.

The court was annoyed by the government’s decision not to rehabilitate them and said the government has first to settle and dispose of the issues of the settlers. Then the bench fixed a date for further hearing of the leave to appeal the petition.

According to Article 42(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh, ‘subject to any restrictions imposed by law, every citizen shall have the right to acquire, hold, transfer or otherwise dispose of property, and no property shall be compulsorily acquired, nationalized, or requisitioned save by authority of law’. Moreover, Article 42(2) of the Constitution grants that the acquisition, nationalization, or requisition will be followed by compensation. The provisions have given the citizens the fundamental right to their property and if any acquisition is necessary certain compensation will be followed against that acquisition. According to section 9(2) of the Acquisition and Requisition of Immovable Property Act, 2017, if the government wants to acquire some property for government use that is indispensable for the public interest, it shall give 200 per centum compensation at the market rate to the owner of the property. Hence, both from the standpoint of the constitution as well as statutory law, it is evident that the government is not allowed to acquire land without paying compensation.

The HCD questioned the legality of the Jail Code provision that allows keeping death row convicts in condemned cells before their cases are disposed of by the court

In response to a writ petition, on 5 April 2022 the court issued a rule asking the respondents to explain in four weeks why Regulation 980 of the Bangladesh Jail Code should not be declared unconstitutional.

A bench of M Mujibur Rahman Mia and Justice Ahmed Sohail passed the rule on 5 April after hearing the writ petition that challenged the legality of keeping death row convicts in condemned cells before their cases are finally disposed of by the HCD.

Regulation 980 says, 

Every prisoner sentenced to death shall, from the date of his sentence, and without waiting for the sentence to be confirmed by the High Court Division (Supreme Court), be confined in some safe place, a cell, if possible, within the jail, apart from all other prisoners. The cell or room in which a convict condemned to death is confined shall invariably, before he is placed in it, be examined by the Jailor, who shall satisfy himself with its fitness and safety, and shall record the result of the examination in his report book.

The writ petitioner advocate Shishir Monir argued in the court that the death-row convicts are kept in the condemned cells in a very inhumane and degrading manner, which is contradictory to Article 35(5) of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Article 35(5) of the Constitution said ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or cruelty, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment’. He also said that a total of 1,987 death row convicts were in condemned cells of prisons across the country till September 2021.

No convict can be kept in a death cell until his or her case is finally disposed of by the apex court and it is the fundamental right of an inmate.  Article 35(5) of the Constitution ensured a person’s rights in jail. Imprisonment in a condemned cell before disposing of a case is violating the inmate’s human rights. Article 6(1) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) grants every human being, whether a prisoner or a freeman, the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. As such, a death-row convicted prisoner has the right to get his case disposed of first before getting into the condemned cell.

The HCD issued directives that the Canadian government must ensure security for a 19-year-old Canadian girl

The HCD on 12 April 2022 issued directives that the Canadian government must ensure the safety and security of a 19-year-old Canadian girl allegedly confined by her parents in Dhaka against her will. The HCD bench of Justice Farah Mahbub and Justice SM Maniruzzaman issued the directions while hearing a writ petition filed by rights organizations Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST).

The parents of the girl are Bangladeshi born Canadian citizens. They brought their daughter to Bangladesh to meet her grandparents. But when the girl wanted to go back to Canada, their parents kept her confined in the house and even took away her cell phone. However, she somehow managed to contact the Canadian Embassy and some human rights organization that led her to the court.

The Court said that the Canadian national cannot be kept confined against her will as she is an adult and wants to go back to Canada. The Court also noted that the parents should keep in mind that their children will look after them when they age. Then, the Court directed the parents to return her accessories so that she can connect with her friends.

According to section  3 the Majority Act 1875, a boy or a girl attains the majority at the age of 18. At this age, everyone gets the will to live on their own. No one can compel him or her to live in a certain way. Parents also should not impose any decision on their children against their will. Article 32 of the Constitution of Bangladesh ensured the right to liberty of every person, whether he or she is a citizen or not. 

The Supreme Court chamber judge refused to stay an HCD verdict granting copyright of Masud Rana Series to the ghost-writer Sheikh Abdul Hakim

The Supreme Court chamber judge Justice M Enayetur Rahim on 24 April 2022 refused to stay an HCD verdict granting copyright of 260 books of the popular spy thriller Masud Rana Series and 50 books of Kuasha Series to Sheikh Abdul Hakim. 

Abdul Hakim had worked as a writer for Seba Prokashoni and wrote books for the organization while receiving a monthly salary. After retirement, he submitted an application to the copyright office against Kazi Anwar for violating the Copyright Act, 2000. In response to the application on 29 July 2018, the copyright office issued an order granting the copyright of the book to Sheikh Abdul Hakim on 14 July 2020. Then Kazi Anwar Hossain filed a writ against the order.

On 13 December 2022 the HCD rejected a writ petition filed by Kazi Anwar Hossain, owner of Seba Prokashoni, challenging the Bangladesh Copyright Office order. The HCD upheld the order of the Bangladesh Copyright Office that granted the copyright of Sheikh Abdul Hakim. In the HCD, lawyers Murad Reza and Hamidul Misbah stood for the petitioner and Khurshid Alam Khan along with Iftabul Kalam represented the Cultural Affairs Secretary and register of copyright.

Then Kazi Anwar Hossain challenged the HCD order, and the AD refused to stay the HCD’s verdict and sent the petition to the full bench of AD for hearing on 30 May.

Copyright is a major concern in Bangladesh. Copyright is one of the most significant segments of Intellectual Property. Copying other work means stealing others’ work as my own. As such, to protect copyrights, Bangladesh Copyright Act was introduced in 2000. However, lack of  implementation and negligence, often one cannot claim their rights. In this instance, the Court has taken a praiseworthy step by recognizing and giving copyright of the Masud Rana and Kuasha series to Sheikh Abdul Hakim.