The tragedy of Tazreen Fashions on November 24, 2012, shattered the whole nation. Delwar Hossain, the owner, managed to avoid arrest or even face any criminal charges until December 2013. After the incident, there had been two cases registered with the Ashulia Police Station by the Ashulia police and in both the cases Delwar Hossain was not made accused in any manner. The language of both the FIRs was somewhat sarcastic and smacked of political influence. The whole blame was put on conspiracy rather than the willful negligence of the owner of the factory. The Factory Inspector, whose paramount duty was to save lives, has not been held to account yet. In one of the above mentioned cases, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was vested with the investigation and they repeatedly said to the media that they could not find Mr. Delwar as he had gone into hiding.
We know how difficult it is to find someone who was hiding from the long hand of the law enforcement agencies. There had been regular protest by the workers and the activists for his arrest and proper compensation to the family members of the victims. None of the demands has seen any consideration apart from distribution of donations to a few family members by the Office of the Hon'ble Prime Minister. In the meantime, two specific Writ Petitions were filed for determination of compensation to the victims, and while these cases were pending hearing, the incident of Rana Plaza occurred. The owners of the factories and the owner of the building were duly sued and were arrested in connection with the said killings. A Writ Petition was filed before the High Court against Mr. Delwar Hossain to initiate legal proceedings against him under section 304A of the Penal Code for killing 112 workers. The said Writ Petition is also pending for hearing now. In the meantime, the CID after completion of their investigation found primary evidence against Mr. Delwar Hossain that he was responsible for killing 112 workers and on December 22, 2013, submitted Charge Sheet against him under section 304 and 304A of the Penal Code in one case. Subsequently, on February 9, Mr. Delwar Hossain surrendered before the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Dhaka and was sent to jail custody, till being granted bail on August 4.
According to the newspaper reports earlier bail applications had been moved before the High Court thrice. It was rejected on two occasions and in the third attempt the Hon'ble High Court issued Rule for his bail, which was subsequently rejected as being not pressed. As per Rule 6 of Chapter IV of the High Court Rules which requires that “when an application is made to the Court or to the Registrar in any matter in which any previous application was made to the Court or to the Registrar to the same effect, or with the same object, or with a similar object, the fact of such application having been made and the order passed thereon shall be clearly stated in the application.” We learnt from newspaper reports that none of these previous attempts and the order passed had been mentioned in the fresh application. Moreover, a Division Bench of the Hon'ble High Court in their order passed on July 24, 2014, clearly mentioned that “it has been submitted by the learned advocate that there has been agitation for non-payment of wages to the workers and the learned advocate undertakes that on release, he will pay the wages to the agitating workers.” This clearly shows that the issue of payment has been used as a means to facilitate his bail from the High Court.
Whether a person would be granted bail or not is the discretion of the court but the bail of Delwar Hossain was taken by way of supplying misleading information to the court. It is evident from the records of the Ashulia P.S. Case No. 62 dated 25.11.2012 that he was arrested on February 9, 2014, and since then there had been no question of non-payment of wages for the months of March and April 2014. An artificial crisis was created by the Tuba Group authority to facilitate the bail from the High Court -- this is what the workers were alleging since they started their protest for the arrear wages, which has proved to be true in the end. This clearly gives us a message that in future no one will dare to touch the owner of any industry even if he commits a serious criminal offence. If we do then the consequences will be that the workers will suffer with no pay. We all know the Tuba Group is a private limited company registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies in accordance with the Company Law and runs by the said company law. If the company argues that they cannot pay the workers as the Managing Director is away then one must think that there are serious violations of the Company Law which have set consequences like cancellation of registration and so on. For the sake of argument, if Mr. Delwar was away for medical treatment for six months then would the authority have argued in the same way? I guess this is what we are going to see in future.
The 1,600 workers of five factories of Tuba Group went on hunger strike on July 28, 2014, as a last resort to get their arrear wages and the ball was in the court of the workers for almost 7 days from July 28. They managed to get attention of the people from all walks of life and many demonstrations in favour of the workers were clearly visible in the capital city. The whole scenario turned upside down when Mr. Delwar finally came out from the jail custody on the 8th day of the hunger strike on August 5, 2014. Police and local goons took over possession of the streets on August 6 and on August 7 they entered into the factory premises and cleared the premises by using excessive force. The government role in dealing with this humanitarian issue is equally frustrating. Many political activists were severely injured by the police due to police action and like in all other incidents no one came up with any satisfactory explanation as to why these people were beaten so mercilessly!
The write is Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh.