Rights body Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) yesterday alleged that Rajuk’s mobile court, which fined and ordered the organisation to vacate its Lalmatia office in two months, forced them to sign a statement saying they have committed an offence.
“However, according to the Mobile Court Act, the accused can move the judicial court -- refuting the allegations,” Sheepa Hafiza, executive director of the rights body, said at a press conference at its Lalmatia office yesterday.
She alleged that the executive magistrate threatened to seal the office and arrest ASK officials when they tried to refute the allegations against them.
“Without paying heed to any of our logic, the executive magistrate in a high-handed manner first charged us under three sections of the Building Construction Act, 1952. When we challenged them, showing the law, they charged us under one section -- 3(A) of the act,” she said.
The mobile court led by Rajuk Executive Magistrate Jesmin Aktar conducted the drive at the building that houses the ASK office on Thursday noon and demolished a part of its garage that was constructed flouting Rajuk-approved plan.
At one point, she went to the office and asked why the rights body was operating in a residential area, the ASK executive director said.
ASK authorities presented all the documents of renting the office and stated that they maintained all the agreements as tenant, and that it is not a commercial organisation but a non-profit rights body registered -- with the same address -- under the NGO Affairs Bureau.
Besides, there are many business entities, schools and other social welfare-related organisations in the area, they pointed out.
Despite that, the magistrate fined ASK Tk 2 lakh and ordered them to leave the building in two months. The magistrate did not give ASK a copy of the order, despite a written request, Sheepa Hafiza added.
She said such law is applicable to the building’s owner, construction company and the concerned bodies, but they are just using the building as tenant.
“Such drive against a rights body is a matter of serious concern and worries ASK,” the executive director added. She said ASK was established in 1986 and has been working tirelessly to uphold the rights of people.
“We apprehend that such drives of Rajuk will shrink the activities of rights bodies such as us,” she said.
Terming the mobile court’s action “illegal”, the ASK executive director said they will challenge the action by all means and will go to court if needed.
There are offices of six other organisations in the building that were also fined.
Refuting all allegations, Rajuk Executive Magistrate Jesmin Aktar said they took action according to Rajuk law.
“According to the law, residential buildings have to be used for residential purpose. Not only ASK, other offices in the building were also fined and told to vacate,” she said, adding that the building owner was also fined.
“They [ASK] themselves admitted that they were operating in a residential building,” the executive magistrate said. As they are doing humanitarian work, they can appeal to the Rajuk chairman for consideration, she added.