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 September 2023.

AD issued a written order prohibiting rallies on court premises

Earlier on 29 August 2023, in response to a conference and rally held at SC premises by several lawyers, protesting the court order and creating chaos in the courtroom, a petition was submitted. 

On 30 August, the AD issued a directive instructing lawyers to strictly adhere to the HCD order prohibiting procession and gathering in the SC premises. The HC bench of Justice Abdul Matin and Justice AFM Abdur Rahman, in a verdict delivered on 23 May 2005, issued a guideline for holding rallies at the Supreme Court.

A four-member AD bench led by Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique signed a written order and issued thereby on 2 September 2023. The written order outlined strict adherence to the HCD order that prohibits any form of procession or gathering within the SC premises. 

Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said that everyone has been asked to follow the HCD order strictly, which barred holding rallies and processions and using microphones in the court area. It applies to all courts of Bangladesh. Any act in defiance of this order will constitute contempt of court. The persons concerned shall refrain from all court proceedings until the matter is resolved.

As the HCD order has been violated, the court scheduled a hearing on 19 October for a contempt of court petition against the concerned lawyers. The conduct of the lawyers pertaining to such rallies is a blatant defiance of the HCD order. The written order issued by SC is a welcoming reminder for all lawyers throughout Bangladesh to uphold the proper atmosphere at the court premises, and violation shall anchor them in contempt of court. 

HCD released full judgment on setting up a breastfeeding corner to ensure a safe and healthy environment for children

Entrench of this petition was back on 24 October 2019 when this writ petition was filed. The HCD delivered the verdict on this issue on 2 April this year, and finally, on 19 September 2023 the entire judgment was delivered. 

Advocate Ishrat Hasan and her nine-month-old child Umair Bin Sadi, who was also mentioned as a petitioner, filed a writ petition seeking necessary directives to set up infant feeding centers in all public places.

The HCD, in full judgment, noted that a child needs to be breastfed for two years. A large number of such lactating mothers are engaged in services or businesses, either in the government or the private sector. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that necessary arrangements be made at all pertinent establishments and public places, including shopping malls, bus terminals, train stations, steamers, or launch ghats, to enable mothers to feed their children whenever and wherever they need to without difficulty or suffering.

Focusing on the industry sector, where more than 90% of manpower comprises female workers, HCD stated to follow section 94 of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, which outlined that In every establishment where forty or more female workers are ordinally employed, it is imperative that each and every garment factory, should set up corners or designated spaces to facilitate the feeding of infants by their mothers during their working hours. It is equally crucial that such facilities should also be made in conformity with the proper directives envisaged in section 94 of the Bangladesh Labour Law, 2006, namely, that one or more suitable rooms shall be provided and the room should be well-ventilated, strongly constructed, and furnished with adequate accommodation and should be made accessible to the concerned mothers. 

HCD directed that the Women and Children Affairs Ministry should formulate guidelines to establish breastfeeding corners in public places and private institutions. The labour secretary and chairman of the Department of Labour were directed to submit a report within 60 days on the implementation of the order. The cabinet, women and children affairs, health, social welfare, and civil aviation and tourism secretaries, among others, were asked to reply to the rule.

This pioneering judgment will secure the promising well-being of breastfed children and profound opportunities for female employees’ attainment. Section 94 of the Bangladesh Labour Act under the workers’ welfare chapter provides for maintaining rooms for children but in practice, such provision has been barely implemented. Challenging this practice, after 18 years, HCD issued a ruling mandating the required directives. As such, the effectiveness of the judgment must be seen, and the concerned authorities must obey the directives within a reasonable time.

AD suspended bail and ordered the surrender of the passport of an accused of graft case. 

On 27 September 2023, Justice M Enayetur Rahim, judge of the AD of the SC, passed the order upholding the bail order for suspension and surrender of passport of foreign ministry official Md Zakir Hossain in a corruption case, following a petition filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seeking a stay on the HCD order of bail. 

Back on 14 March last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission Assistant Director filed a graft case against foreign ministry official Md Zakir Hossain for amassing TK 15.88 crore property through illegal means. 

According to the case statement, the ACC, in its primary inquiry, found information of homes, flats, cars, and Fixed Deposit Receipts (FDR) at different banks in Dhaka, which Zakir acquired through illegal means. A lower court previously ordered the concerned authorities to confiscate illegal properties. 

According to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, 2004 and sections 161 and 165 of the Penal Code, 1860 which deal with the punishment of public servants taking gratification by illegal means, the alleged official  shall proceed through the trial procedure, and follow the order passed. Thus, AD directed the accused to surrender his passport and not leaving the country without a court order.