This edition of ‘From the Court Corridor’ curates the notable pronouncements of the Appellate Division (AD) and the High Court Division (HCD) of the Supreme Court (SC) of Bangladesh in April 2023.
HCD issues rule to set up breastfeeding corners in public places
The HCD gave a verdict on 2 April 2023, ordering to set up breastfeeding corners at public places such as workplaces, shopping malls, bus stops, railway stations, and airports. An HCD bench comprising Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury and Justice Kazi Ebadot Hossain delivered the verdict following a writ petition filed by Advocate Ishrat Hasan on 24 October 2019.
Advocate Ishrat Hasan, the mother of nine-month-old child Umair Bin Sadi, filed the writ to ensure a safe and healthy environment for children breastfeeding. The name of her nine-month-old child Umair Bin Sadi was also mentioned as a petitioner and Secretaries of the Council of Ministers, Women and Child Welfare Ministry, Health Ministry, Social Welfare Ministry, Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry were made respondents. For the first time in Bangladesh, a nine-month-old has filed a petition to the HCD. On 27 October 2019, the HCD issued the rule regarding this, and media reports on the necessity of setting up breastfeeding corners were also annexed to the writ petition. The court opined that the breastfeeding corners must be established in such a way that completely ensures the safety, comfort, and privacy of a mother and her child. In the petition, the petitioner mentioned Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2009 had directed the authorities concerned to establish breastfeeding corners and daycare centers at all public and private workplaces ensuring safe and a healthy environment for mothers and children. However, the directives of the PM are yet to be implemented properly.
A healthy future generation relies upon our present decisions and policies. The establishment of properly available and hygienic breastfeeding corners across Bangladesh is a stepping milestone to ensure the protection of the ‘Right to Life’ under Article 32 of The Constitution of Bangladesh. The HCD in Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque v. Government of Bangladesh (Radioactive Milk Case) held that the right to life under the Constitution included the protection of the health and normal longevity of an ordinary human being. ‘Right to life’ can be interpreted in a large extent which covers anything that is necessary to lead a meaningful life and hygienic breastfeeding corners are important to ensure a mother and her child’s privacy, safety and good health while breastfeeding.
HCD directs to form a high-level committee to investigate the Sultana Jesmin murder case
On 5 April 2023, The HCD bench of Justice Farah Mahbub and Justice Muhammad Mahbub Ul Islam asked to withdraw the Rab officials involved in Sultana’s detention and ordered to form a new committee comprising the Naogaon district judge and chief judicial magistrate after hearing a writ petition seeking directions for the formation of a probe committee. The Court also directed to submit a report within the next 60 days after the completion of the investigation.
Sultana Jesmin was an office assistant of Chandipur Union land office in Naogaon Sadar, Naogaon district. RAB detained her for a case filed under the Digital Security Act (DSA) from Muktir Mor in Naogaon Sadar at around 10:30am on Wednesday. Later she died under treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of Rajshahi Medical College Hospital. The Detenu’s family said that the victim died due to the torture in Rab Custody. Supreme Court Advocate Manoj Kumar Bhowmick filed the writ petition on 28 March 2023. In DSA cases, police have the authority to investigate such cases under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) but Rab conducted a probe into the case after 31 hours of her detention. The petitioner submitted that she was not produced before a court within 24 hours of her detention which is a violation of Section 167 of CrPC.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh provides protection to a person under Articles 31(Right to Protection of Law), and Article 33 (Right to Safeguard as to arrest and detention). Section 25 and 27 of the Evidence Act also provides protection to safeguard a person at the time of police interrogation. The HCD’s direction to form a new committee is appreciable to ensure accountability and transparency regarding the investigation process. There are many instances when custodial death incidents gave rise to strong disputation all through the country. In the Blast & Others vs. Bangladesh & Others and Saifuzzaman vs. Bangladesh cases, the concerned court had improvised directions regarding arrest and detention. The authorities need to be more concerned about exercising the power to arrest under DSA 2018 and maintaining the regulations of arrest and detention.
The HCD granted Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman a six-week anticipatory bail in a case filed under the Digital Security Act (DSA)
On 1 April 2023, the HCD bench comprising Justice Mustafa Zaman Islam and Justice Md Aminul Islam made the observations that Prothom Alo has the right to get the protection of law under Article 31 of the Constitution of Bangladesh1 and granted the editor a six-week anticipatory bail directing him to show up at the Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court in Dhaka after six weeks and seek fresh bail.
On 29 March 2023, an FIR was filed by a lawyer named Abdul Malek (Mashiur Malek), accusing Matiur Rahman, Prothom Alo reporter Shamsuzzaman Shams, an unnamed cameraman, and unnamed others of using print, online, and electronic media to tarnish the image and reputation of the state under sections 25, 31 and 35 of the Digital Security Act (DSA).2 The paper’s Savar correspondent Shamsuzzaman Shams, who wrote the report, was sued in a separate case under the DSA on 29 March and picked up from his house near Jahangirnagar University by members of the Criminal Investigation Department of police.
The Court opined that Prothom Alo has the right to get justice as they corrected their mistake. In the following report posted on social media, Prothom Alo made a ‘card’ with a quote from a labourer named Zakir Hossain. Though the card contained Zakir’s quote, it had the photo of an adolescent boy taken from behind. The mistake was noticed within 17 minutes, and the card was removed. Besides, corrections were made to the report and the news was again published online mentioning the corrections.
The implications of DSA have been a matter of controversy in Bangladesh as it is likely to violate the right to privacy under Article 43 of The Constitution of Bangladesh. Also, it is regarded as a tool to erase and stop the spreading of false news and information. The Court diligently provided its discretion keeping in mind the overall context. They considered the News authority’s prompt action to correct the mistake.
SC chamber judge stays Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana’s bail order
On 9 April 2023, the SC chamber judge stayed the HCD’s verdict to grant bail until 8 May 2023, to Rana Plaza owner, Sohel Rana in a murder case filed in 2013. On 24 April 2013, the nine-story Rana Plaza adjacent to the Savar bus stand collapsed killing 1,135 people and injuring around 2500 people.
After the incident, Savar police station Sub-Inspector Wali Ashraf filed a case over “deaths in negligence” against Sohel Rana and others. At first, it was a case of negligence in building construction. Lawyers also added a murder charge later. After the investigation, the number of accused was 41 in the charge sheet submitted in mid-2015. At present, the case is at the hearing stage in the District and Sessions Judge Court of Dhaka.
On 12 November 2020, Sohel Rana’s bail application was rejected in the lower court. Then he applied for bail in the HCD. On 7 April 2023, the HCD bench of Justice Md Akram Hossain Chowdhury and Justice Mohammad Ali passed the bail order in that murder case against Sohel Rana and many others, after a hearing on a rule questioning why he should not be granted bail. The state moved to appeal then.
The Rana Plaza Tragedy was one of the most tragic industrial disasters of all time. After 10 years of this incident, the Government has developed a National Action Plan for the Labour Sector that includes further labour law reform in response to the 2019 International Labour Organization (ILO) complaint. The government also launched a project to compensate the victims and made new work sectors. Though there are a lot of improvements in the garment sector but other sectors’ regulations need to be overviewed properly. 2023 is a year full of fire-related accidents in factories and shopping malls. Proper precautions need to be taken by the authorities to stop these accidents.
HCD suspends Investigating Officer (IO) in Rubel murder case
The HCD ordered to suspension of Manikganj Sadar Police Station’s sub-inspector Masudur Rahman for conducting a “perfunctory” investigation of the Rubel murder case and submitting the charge sheet abruptly providing erroneous information before the Court. The Court also ordered the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) to do further investigation of the murder and re-open the case within 60 days.
On 23 September 2022, Md Rubel was killed in a hatchery in Kaitra village of Manikganj Sadar, according to the published news. The next day, his wife filed a murder case as the plaintiff, accusing a person named Sohail. Police arrested the accused. On 1 March, Lawyer Shishir Monir filed a writ in the High Court, attaching a report published in a national daily regarding the speedy investigation. The HCD bench expressed its criticism regarding the process of taking statements from witnesses and the small duration (42 hours) of the completion of the investigation.
The investigation officer of a case is empowered to collect necessary evidence under CRPC. It is important to collect shreds of evidence carefully because a simple mistake can create a blunder. The HCD considered the irregularities and took appropriate steps to provide justice.
The author was assisted by Meherin Sultana Mim, who is currently serving as an Associate Editor at Dhaka Law Review.