Road transport leaders yesterday urged the higher courts to review their recent orders asking transport companies to pay compensations to victims of road accidents.
If the courts continue to impose fines in such ways in road accident cases, transport owners and workers will have to consider leaving the sector, they said.
At a joint meeting of transport owners and workers in the capital’s Mohanagar Natya Mancha, Shajahan Khan, executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, read out a statement that he termed “opinions” of transport owners and workers.
They came up with the call amid a rise in road accidents for which errant drivers and owners of vehicles are often blamed. The country saw two major student agitations for safe road in the last nine months over deaths of students in road crashes in the capital.
Shajahan, a ruling party lawmaker, compared the situation in the transport sector with “great danger signal no-10”, referring to cyclonic storm Fani which is likely to hit Bangladesh today.
The meeting was attended by leaders of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners’ Association, Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Owners’ Association and Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation.
It was convened to discuss different problems that surfaced in the transport sector recently. However, most of the speakers talked about the High Court orders for compensations in road accident cases.
Some of them also criticised the media and participants of TV talk shows, alleging that media personnel are portraying transport owners and workers as opponents of people.
Shajahan, also former shipping minister, said that in several cases over road accidents, the higher courts ordered transport owners and workers to pay “crores of taka in compensation”, and several more cases are now pending.
“It has become impossible for us to pay the hefty amounts that are being imposed as fine. We are anxious and surprised at these orders,” he said, reading out the statement.
He referred to court orders in cases over six road accidents that claimed lives, among others, of noted filmmaker Tareque Masud, Titumir College student Rajib Hossain, and private university student Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury.
Shajahan said Tk 4.61 crore-compensation has been slapped over Tareque Masud’s death, Tk 3.52 crore over journalist Mozammel Hossain Mantu’s death, Tk 1 crore over Rajib’s death, Tk 10 lakh over Abrar’s death and Tk 50 lakh over a road accident in which Russel Sarkar lost his leg.
Another case is now pending with a Sylhet court where family members of one of the eight victims of a road accident sought Tk 13.22 crore in compensation, he mentioned.
“Inspired by such verdicts in the cases, those affected by road accidents are going to higher courts. Transport owners and workers have to leave the sector if [the courts] continue to give such orders for compensations in cases over road accidents.”
It would be a better option for the owners and workers to leave the sector if they have to face execution or sell vehicles, and their moveable and immoveable properties for paying compensations.
He urged the courts to review their orders in all these cases, and also called upon the chief justice to see that no one is deprived of justice.
“We humbly request the honourable chief justice and the other judges not to hand them [transport owners and workers] bottles of poison in the name of giving exemplary punishment.
“Rather, we think it will be proper to identify the responsibilities of the authorities concerned and direct them to implement the recommendations made for checking accident and bringing discipline on the roads.”
He further said they would accept any punishment to guilty persons if it is handed down in line with the law, and after proper and impartial investigation into every road accident.
“Otherwise, we think we won’t have any other option but to leave the sector.”
Mashiur Rahman Ranga, president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, said the transport sector is now going through the toughest time in recent years.
Ranga, also a Jatiya Party lawmaker, said the prime minister is with them but some ministers say negative things about the sector.
He said the judges need to consider how a driver with a monthly income of Tk 10,000 would be able to pay a hefty compensation.
Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of the association, said in many cases, hefty fines are imposed even after all documents of the vehicles involved in road accidents are found valid.
He further said some recent incidents made them anxious. And if such a situation prevails, no one will invest in the sector.
Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners’ Association Chairman Romesh Chandra Ghosh, and its vice presidents Sadiqur Rahman Hiru and Abdur Rahim Box Dudu, also spoke at the programme moderated by its General Secretary Osman Ali.