The High Court yesterday directed S Alam Group, one of the owners of SS Power I Plant in Chattogram's Banshkhali upazila, to immediately give Tk 5 lakh to each of the families of the seven victims who were killed after police opened fire during a demonstration by workers on April 17.
In response to two writ petitions, the HC asked the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police of Chattogram to submit their inquiry reports to it in 45 days.
S Alam Group has also been ordered to submit a report on what measures it has taken to compensate the families of the deceased and injured and also for their treatment to the HC in 45 days.
The HC directed the authorities concerned of the government and S Alam Group to ensure that any labour or person in that area was not harassed.
The court also issued a rule asking the authorities concerned to explain why a directive should not be given to them to form a judicial inquiry committee to probe the incident.
In the rule, the HC asked the government authorities to show causes why their inaction and failure to take appropriate legal actions against the perpetrators who killed and injured workers on April 17 and to ensure subsequent safety and security to the workers and their families should not be declared unlawful.
The HC in the rule also asked them to explain why they should not be directed to give compensations of Tk 3 crore to each of the families of the deceased workers and Tk 2 crore to each of the injured workers to ensure justice.
The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Sardar Md Rashed Jahangir came up with the order and rule in response to two writ petitions filed by six rights organisations seeking its necessary directives in this regard.
Lawyers ZI Khan Panna, Sayeda Rizwana Hasan, Syeda Nasrin and Shahinuzzaman appeared for the writ petitioners, while lawyer Arshadur Rouf argued for S Alam Group and deputy attorney generals Bipul Bagmar and Arobindo Kumar Roy represented the state.
During the hearing on the writ petitions, petitioners' lawyer Rizwana told the court that police opened fire on the workers of the power plant without any provocation and in violation of the Police Regulation 1943 when they (workers) raised their lawful demands. The duty of police is to ensure safety and security of the people, but they have shot the labourers to death, which is illegal and unconstitutional, she said.
Rizwana said four villagers were killed on April 4, 2016 and another was killed on February 1, 2017 in police firing over land acquisition for the same power plant, but no independent inquiry was carried out into those incidents and the victims' families did not get any compensation.
Opposing the writ petitions, S Alam Group's lawyer Arshadur Rouf said his client has already given Tk 3 lakh to each of the families of the deceased workers.
Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a leading rights organisation, filed one of the writ petitions as public interest litigation with the HC on April 21, seeking its directive on the authorities concerned to conduct a judicial inquiry into the April 17 incident.
On April 28, five other rights bodies collectively submitted another writ petition as public interest litigation seeking HC order on the authorities to conduct a judicial inquiry into the incident and to stop construction of the coal-fired power plant till completion of the inquiry.
The petitioners are: Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela); Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (Blast); Nijera Kori; Safety and Rights Society; and Association for Land Reforms and Development.
Seven workers of SS Power I Plant, a joint venture involving S Alam Group, were killed and at least 19 other people injured in the April 17 incident.