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 June 2022.

The HCD issued a rule to investigate the allegations of students harassed for wearing a burqa

In response to a writ petition (WP) filed in 2019 by Allama Mohammad Mahbub Alam, editors of the daily Al Ihsan and monthly Al Baiyinaat, and another person named Matiul Azam Abul Khair Mohammad Azizullah, the HCD on 2 June 2022 ordered the concerned state parties to conduct an investigation.

The bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Khizir Hayat passed the order. The respondents of the WP were Secretaries to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Chairman of the Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. The respondents have been instructed to provide a report within 60 days on the allegations of harassment of female students who wore burqas around 15 educational institutions throughout Bangladesh. The report must confirm the occurrence of harassment against the female students wearing burqa, and it must also include where and by whom it occurred along with what actions have been taken against the alleged persons.

While passing the order, the HCD gave a statement on Bangladesh being a secular country and how people of all religions are entitled to equal rights and freedom in this country. 

Women across the world still suffer from the lack of liberty regarding their choice of garments. It is an admirable step taken by couthe HCD to ensure justice by conducting proper investigation to guarantee the female students their constitutional right to perform their religion without restrictions.

The HCD issued directives for implementing the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act, 2010

The WP was filed by the Jute Mill Owners Association and Barrister Sumaiya Aziz represented the petitioners. The respondents were Secretaries of law, agriculture, jute and textiles, and the food ministry. The HCD in response to the writ took a strict position and asked the state parties to submit separate reports explaining their inaction regarding the implementation of the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act, 2010.

For enforcing the Act properly, the HCD bench of Justice Zafar Ahmed and Justice Kazi Zinat Hoque gave directions to the state parties to ensure the packaging of 19 essential materials in jute bags for the purposes of exporting, importing as well as making sales. The Court also issued a rule asking why the inaction of the government in implementing the mandatory requirement of businesses to use jute bags should not be declared illegal. The respondents have been given a duration of two months to comply with such orders.

The Mandatory Jute Packaging Act, 2010 was enacted with the goal of reducing polythene waste and for safeguarding the environment. In addition, it has the potential to promote the jute industry of Bangladesh. However, due to lack of proper implementation and monitoring, some dishonest businessmen are violating this law and causing major harm to the environment and the jute industry. It is a matter of relief that the High Court Division put a light on this issue of great importance.

The HCD issued rule for providing all street children with Birth Certificate

A WP was filed on 12 June by President Sharmin Farhana of the social welfare organization ‘Sports for Hope and Independence’ as a Public Interest Litigation under Article 102 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Barrister Tapas Kanti Baul was the lawyer for the petitioner and during the hearing he shared that a team of street children are supposed to  participate in  ‘Street Child World Cup Doha 2022’ scheduled to be held in October. However, they are unable to obtain passports due to not having any birth certificates.

In addition, a survey from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BRB) made in 2014 showed that more than 1.1 million street children do not have any birth certificates.

In response to the WP, the HCD bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Khizir Hayat on 30 June issued a rule and asked the state parties to respond to the rule within four weeks. The Secretaries to the ministries of women and children, and home affairs, and the Office of the Registrar General of Birth and Death Registration were made respondents. 

While issuing the rule, the Court raised two questions: why the respondents should not be directed to take necessary steps as per the existing law and rules to issue birth certificates to all street children of the country; and why their inaction to issue birth certificates for all street children should not be declared illegal and without lawful authority. The Court has also instructed the respondents to provide a report within three months on the necessary steps undertaken to issue birth certificates to all street children throughout the country.

The street children of Bangladesh already face a lot of negligence and are deprived of their basic fundamental economic, social and cultural rights. This WP is a great step towards helping these children build their identity so that they can introduce themselves in the society properly.

The High Court Division orders identification of the culprits who spread false padma bridge corruption stories

A suo motu rule was issued by the HCD Bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice Mohammad Ullah on 15 February 2017 after following some newspaper cuttings asking the state to provide an explanation as to why it should not be directed to form an enquiry commission to identify the “culprits who made up false stories” about corruption regarding the Padma Bridge project and why it should not be ordered to bring those behind such stories to justice.

A followup to this WP was made on 28 June where the HCD bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo ordered the government to form a commission within 30 days to identify the culprits who spread the rumours regarding the corruption involving the Padma Bridge. The commission has been directed to submit a report on its findings within two months. For further hearing on this issue a date has been set on 12 August 2022.

During the hearing the HCD stated that the Padma Bridge was a matter of pride for our country and the people who sullied the name of this bridge must be brought to justice. These people are deemed to be the enemies of the nation and they must be identified for the sake of ensuring peace in the country.