Rigorous imprisonment to go from new jail code
The government is going to repeal the provision of backbreaking work for prisoners as part of a massive amendment to the Jail Code about to be implemented soon. The amendment will also introduce provisions of freeing inmates on parole, freedom of observing religious rituals inside jails, entertainment for prisoners, simplification of the division facility system, and removal of discrimination in allocation of foods for inmates. The much talked about jail code reform plan worked out by a home secretary-led committee, which had begun in 2003, was completed on August 1. According to government officials, the amended code will be enacted this month after the cabinet approves it. Following demands from different rights groups for modernising the Jail Code and removing inhumane provisions from it, which had been introduced by the British government in 1864, the Government of Bangladesh formed Bangladesh Jails Reform Commission in 1978 with Justice FKMA Munim as its head. Although the commission submitted its report in 1980 after studying jail codes of 14 countries and a committee was formed to implement its recommendations, the British-introduced jail code is still in effect with some minor changes to some of its 1388 codes. - The Daily Star, August 13.
EC berates some poll observers
The secretary of the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat slammed some of the election observers for not following properly the policy and guidelines on polls observation. "There are some organisations who engage school and college students to observe elections. Some of them don't even submit observation reports to the Election Commission. Sometimes they issue statements that could unbalance the situation during the election time," Abdur Rashid Sarkar, the EC secretary, told reporters. He, however, did not name any of the election observers' bodies. "It's my observations in general," he added. In accordance with the policy and guidelines formulated by the EC for election observers no one can be appointed an observer unless they are eligible for contesting an election and their age will be minimum 25 years. Neutrality of some election observers of the alliance has come into question when they have yet to begin the task of monitoring the next general election. -The Daily Star, August 14.
Dhaka protests Indian HC's statement against BDR
Dhaka protested the Indian High Commission's statement accusing Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) of 'opening unprovoked fire' on Border Security Force (BSF) on Zakiganj border a few days back. A foreign ministry spokesman termed the statement false, fabricated and unsubstantiated. "We are utterly surprised that the press release of the Indian High Commission has not only distorted the facts on the ground but has also made totally unfounded allegations against BDR," he said. He said the issuance of allegations by the Indian High Commission through public statement "clearly runs contrary to established diplomatic norms and basic courtesy." "The High Commission of India's admonition to BDR to avoid indulgence in provocative unilateral act is also ironic," the spokesman said. "Because Indian BSF caused death of innumerous Bangladeshi civilians." He said BSF firing killed 373 civilians on Bangladesh side between October 2001 and August 10, 2006. In six months till May 2006, 52 Bangladeshi civilians became victims of BSF firing. -Unb, Dhaka, August 14.
HC asks govt to ensure living, food for villagers
The High Court directed the government to ensure safe dwelling place, food, water, medicine and other essentials to the people of 144 waterlogged villages in Abhaynagar, Manirampur and Keshabpur upazilas of Jessore so long as the water logging continues. A division bench of the High Court formed with Justice Syed Mohammad Dastagir Hossain and Justice Mamnoon Rahman issued the order following a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) seeking judicial intervention to address the sufferings of the affected people. In the writ petition, director general (DG) of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), deputy commissioner of Jessore, deputy director of the Department of Environment, Khulna and the Upazila Nirbahi officers of the three affected upazilas have been made respondents.
The bench also directed the government agencies to show cause within a month as to why their failure to protect the lives, properties and livelihoods; provide safety, comfort and healthcare to the villagers affected by such water logging in the three upazilas should not be declared unlawful and in violation of their duties. The respondents have further been directed to show cause within four weeks as to why they should not be directed to draw up necessary action plans in consultation with the local people and why a direction should not be issued upon them to form a committee composed of the persons nominated by the Supreme Court to permanently resolve the problem and arrange adequate compensation for the local people against the losses resulting from such water logging. -The Daily Star, August 14.
RMG workers block busy airport road for pay hike
At least 50 people were injured as police clashed with several thousand garment workers blockading the city's Airport Road yesterday demanding a pay rise and end to 'inhuman treatment'. The demonstrations by the workers of four garment units of NASA Group went on for three and a half hours at Khilkhet intersection, forcing hundreds of vehicles to be stranded on either direction along the busy thoroughfare during the morning rush hour. Vehicular movements came to a standstill on the road stretching from Mohakhali to Khilkhet while on the other side, thousands of commuters from Uttara and beyond were stuck in a miles-long tailback from 8:30am till 12 noon. As the police clubbed the demonstrators to clear the road, a clash broke out between them and the garment workers. At least 10 teargas shells were fired to disperse the agitators who retaliated by throwing stones at the policemen. The garment workers also damaged around 20 vehicles during the demonstration that escalated into a pitched battle leaving 50 of them injured. Similar traffic congestion was seen on the Pragati Sarani and lanes and by-lanes leading to the Badda-Kuril Bishwa Road. Many people bound for the Zia International Airport had to walk to the destination with their luggage in hands. Besides, the guardians took their children to schools on foot. -The Daily Star, August 15.
ACC, NBR lock horns over jurisdiction
The Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) finds itself in the centre of a controversy again as it has engaged in a tug of war with the National Board of Revenue (NBR) over detection of tax evasion incidents. The ACC wrote a letter on Sunday to the NBR and Dhaka Customs House informing the agencies that a large amount of goods had been imported to the inland container depot (ICD) through under-invoicing and false declarations. The commission also requested Dhaka Customs to launch a massive search to detect such tax evasions and to open suspicious containers for inspection in the presence of ACC officials. The NBR reacted to the ACC move saying the move is in complete violation of the Customs Act and detection of tax evasions in such ways is beyond the ACC's jurisdiction. NBR chairman Abdul Karim said he has yet to receive the letter. "I have yet to get the letter. If the ACC issued such a letter it is beyond their jurisdiction," the chairman said. Sources said the NBR will inform Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman about the matter and seek his intervention in the tussle between the two government agencies. Dhaka Customs yesterday formed a five-member committee headed by Lutfar Rahman, additional commissioner of the customs house, to investigate the matter. -The Daily Star, August 15.
with the Law Desk
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