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 July 2022.
Irregularities in railway: A protest by a DU student resulted in fining sohoz.com 2 lacs
Mohiuddin Rony, a student of the University of Dhaka, staged a one-man protest about his six-point mandates against the corruption and mismanagement in the country’s railway administration for 13 days in Kamalapur Station. He gave a memorandum to the Director General of Bangladesh Railway, and also sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to accept his demands and set a deadline of 48 hours for the railway authorities.
He claimed that he booked a seat from the railway website but did not get the seat on the train, although the money was deducted from his mobile banking account. Later the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) held a hearing on his allegation and found sohoz negligent. Subsequently, the Director fined Tk 2 lacs for the negligence of sohoz.com in selling tickets.
Thereafter, on 25 July, shohoz.com filed a writ petition (WP) with the HCD questioning the legality of the verdict delivered by the DNCRP fining Tk 2 lacs. The WP also sought direction from the HCD to stay fine. Meanwhile, shohoz.com’s Vice-President Jubaer Hossain, on 21 July, told an HCD bench that one has to pay within 15 minutes to buy a ticket through the online process, but Mohiuddin Rony paid after about one hour, and so he did not get the ticket. Besides, they have already returned the money to Rony.
After hearing the petition, the HCD bench of Justice Md Khasruzzaman and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir passed the order to stay the decision of DNCRP to fine Shohoz.com Tk 2 lacs. However, it is expected that upon hearing the parties, the HCD will ultimately upheld the compensation order, which is perhaps the only persuasive remedy for the despairs of the passengers like Rony, and also, it will be a lesson for the railway authorities to mend all these irregularities.
HCD orders to stop allowing passengers on train roofs
On 19 July 2022 the HCD ruled against carrying passengers on the roof of trains. A bench consisting of Justice Md. Nazrul Islam and Justice Khizir Hayat issued the aforementioned order. The Court has ordered that from now on, passengers cannot be allowed on roofs anymore, and if any passenger travels by roof, then the concerned rail officials shall be terminated from their jobs. Furthermore, the Court has to be notified within 31 July regarding the steps taken to prevent carrying passengers on the roof and to put an end to the black market of train tickets.
Moreover, the HCD’s move in the instant ruling will outline a remarkable growth in curbing the menace and ensure that no one travels on train roofs. However, it remains to be seen how the Bangladesh Railway can stop people from climbing the roofs of the train in compliance with the HCD directive. Nevertheless, while complying with the HCD directive, the railway authorities will have to find a durable and effective solution to the problem people have been facing year after year during major religious festivals and other important occasions.
Writ petition seeking compensation for baby born on the road after an accident
A WP has been filed with the HCD seeking its directive to the authorities concerned to pay compensation to the baby born during a road accident that left its parents and sister dead in Mymensingh. A tragic road accident near the court building area in Trishal Upazila of Mymensingh left one Jahangir Alam (35), his pregnant wife Ratna Begum (26), and their daughter Jannat Ara (2) of Raymani, dead on the spot on 16 July. While crossing the highway, a speeding Mymenshingh-bound truck knocked them down, leaving all three family members dead on the spot. Miraculously the baby girl was born moments before the mother died on the road, and she was taken to the Upazila health complex by locals.
Supreme Court lawyer Kaniz Fatema filed a writ petition seeking compensation for the baby. The HCD bench of Justice Khizir Ahmed Choudhury and Md Zakir Hossain has ordered the authorities concerned to provide Tk 5 lacs within 15 days to the legal guardian of the baby and asked the Chairman of the Trusty Board formed under Section 54 of the Road Transport Act, 2018 to pay the money after hearing the writ petition. The Women and Child Affairs Secretary, Social Welfare Secretary, Road Transport and Bridges Secretary and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority were made respondents to the writ.
The baby girl could be the first-ever neonate in the country, if not in the world, to have been so early a victim of the road accidents that people here have accepted as a dreaded inevitability. All these cannot compensate for the loss of her parents and sister. So let her rise from the gravest tragedy be like the rise of a phoenix from the ashes.
HCD petitioned for an investigation into anti-Hindu violence and ordered a judicial probe into Narail teacher’s humiliation
On 17 June 2022 a student of Mirzapur United College in Narail made a post on Facebook supporting suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, whose recent remark insulting the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) created global outrage among the Muslims. There was day-long unrest in the College over the post and rumors that acting principal Swapan Kumar Biswas had sided with the student, following which police escorted him out of the campus but not before he had been garlanded with shoes. A video of the incident also went viral on social media that sparked colossal criticism.
Lawyer Purnima Jahan, on behalf of the non-government organization, Ain O Salish Kendra, filed a writ petition on 4 July 2022 addressing the humiliation of Swapan Kumar Biswas, who was forced to wear a garland of shoes. A new petition has been submitted as a supplementary application to that one.
Barrister Aneeq R Haque appeared in the Court on behalf of the writ petitioner, while Deputy Attorney General Samarendra Nath Biswas represented the State.
After hearing the WP, the High Court Division bench of Justice Bhishmadev Chakrabortty and Justice S M Maniruzzaman directed the concerned bodies of the government to explain in four weeks why the failure of the respondents in stopping the so-called “mob justice”, and in protecting people from humiliation in the presence of police and district administration in different places including the incident of humiliation of Swapan Kumar Biswas shall not be declared illegal. The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Narail has been asked to investigate the matter and submit a report to the Court within six weeks. The HCD also directed the authorities concerned to provide security and medical facilities to Swapan Kumar Biswas and his family members.
It is yet another flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of a citizen to exercise their freedom of expression. If appropriately implemented, this order will lead to a remarkable change in our societal system, especially regarding freedom of expression and communal violence.
HCD rule over probe into swallowing Tk 120m in fees: Six bank accounts of Grameen Telecom employees’ lawyer frozen
A total of six bank accounts of lawyer Yousuf Ali, a counsel of the Grameen Telecom union of workers and employees, and his chamber have been frozen after an allegation that the lawyer has received more than Tk 120 million as a fee from his clients in a single case filed against Grameen Telecom, an organization owned by Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. The High Court Division bench of Justice Khizir Ahmed Choudhury and Justice Md Zakir Hossain issued a rule over an investigation into the receipt of substantial legal fees by an apex-court lawyer and asked the respondents to explain in four weeks as to why they should not be directed to initiate and conduct a fair and impartial inquiry into the recent controversy surrounding Tk 120 million fees.
The court then directed the parties to submit a joint statement regarding the due payments of the employees and a list of how much each has been paid. At the same time, documents related to this have also been sought to be submitted in Court before 2 August 2022. Then the parties’ lawyers informed the Court that they had reached an out-of-court settlement with an amount of Tk 4.37 billion. A total of Tk 3.8 billion has already been paid to 168 out of 176 Grameen Telecom employees. However, the payment of the remaining eight employees is being delayed due to legal complications since four of them have died already, and four others are abroad.
All the cases filed by the Grameen Telecom union of workers and employees against Professor Muhammad Yunus and his organization Grameen Telecom were withdrawn from different courts after the parties reached a court settlement over the employees’ claim. On the same ground, the bench of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court on 23 May passed an order dismissing a petition filed by the employees seeking liquidation of Grameen Telecom.
HCD directs to introduce Biometric Data Management System in all police stations and prisons across the country
To prevent miscarriage of justice due to cases of mistaken identity, a bench of the HCD has recently passed an order directing all prisons and police stations to take the following three steps:
- To introduce a Biometric Data Management System including Finger Prints, Palm Prints and Iris Scanning in addition to the existing Crime Data Management System (COMS) in all police stations of the country,
- To introduce mugshot photographs as the primary identification system upon arresting an accused along with the current identification form and upload the mugshot photographs in an integrated database. Therefore, it must be the first activity of the concerned police station to take the mugshot photographs of the accused persons immediately after arrest.
- To introduce Biometric Data Management System Including Finger Prints, Palm Prints and Iris Scanning in all prisons of the country.
The HCD bench comprising Justice Md. Mostafizur Rahman and M. Enayetur Rahim came up with this order on 4 July 2022.
However, in most cases, the relevant authorities are seen making some initial moves in compliance with the HCD directives. Nevertheless, things usually return to the old state as they refrain from taking necessary steps. This should not be the case because the proposed guidelines will help to prevent the miscarriage of justice and the suffering in the investigation.