Apex court guidelines to ensure quick compensation for accidents
Accident is undoubtedly a regular phenomenon in the country. Families or well-wishers of accident victims approach the higher court of the country seeking appropriate compensation.
The High Court Division (HCD) of the Supreme Court (SC) of Bangladesh, as a constitutional court, issues orders and rules and delivers verdicts on regular basis for compensating the victims' families in relevant cases.
However, most of the HCD directives are not implemented instantly because appeals are moved before the Appellate Division (AD) challenging the HCD directives. As such, victims often have to wait for a long period of time, even for years, to get compensation.
In this reality, a specific guideline may come from the AD of the SC for determining the amount of compensation and their early payments for the family members of victims of accidents. Certain examples are enumerated below.
On April 29 this year, the AD has directed Dhaka's United Hospital to pay Taka 25 lakh each in initial payment in 30 days to the families of the four patients killed in a fire at its Covid-19 isolation unit on May 27 last year. The hospital authorities have paid the money as an initial compensation to the victims' families in compliance with the top court directive.
Earlier on January 11 this year, the HCD had directed the hospital authorities to pay Taka 30 lakh as initial costs to each of the families of four victims in 15 days.
The same day, the HCD also issued a rule asking the authorities to explain in four weeks why they should not be directed to pay Taka 15 crores to each victim's family as compensation. The four victims were Vernon Anthony Paul (75), Riyajul Alam (45), Khodeja Begum (70) and Md Mahbub (50).
The HCD bench of Justice JBM Hassan and Justice Md Khairul Alam delivered the order and rule following three separate writ petitions filed by some SC lawyers closed to the families of victims seeking necessary directives for adequate compensation.
Following the same writ petitions, a virtual HCD bench led by Justice M Enayetur Rahim on July 15 last year had directed the United Hospital authorities to pay Taka 30 lakh to each of the four victims' families as an initial payment in 15 days of receiving the copy of the HCD order.
The United Hospital authorities filed a petition with the AD on July 20 last year, seeking a stay on the HCD directive.
The AD in August last year stayed the HCD order and asked the writ petitioners to again move the same writ petitions before a regular HCD bench for issuing a rule and necessary directives of the issue.
In continuation of the legal battle, the AD on April 29 issued the order for compensation which the hospital authorities must comply with.
Meanwhile, the HCD rule is still now pending, and a complete compensation might be determined by this court after hearing the rule.
Lawyers Aneek R Haque and Niaz Mohammad Mahboob, who represented the victims, told The Daily Star that the SC has delivered the order for initial costs under constitutional tort, which is now developing in Bangladesh in ensuring compensation for damages.
Tort law involves claims in an action seeking to obtain a private civil remedy, typically money damages.
Article 104 of the Constitution says, "The [AD] shall have power to issue such directions, orders, decrees or writs as may be necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, including orders for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person or the discovery or production of any document".
Aneek R Haque said, "The idea of constitutional tort is not new. In our country, we have no framework for tort itself. Hence, we are trying to introduce this jurisprudence. The idea is to ensure that all the parties are responsible and show due diligence and observes the duty of care.
"In this case, the negligence of United Hospital in building the corona unit was palpable which is reflected in the reports. This jurisprudence will open up accountability to the people and will help to regulate the service," he added.
Similar attempts have been made in other cases. Some notable examples include the Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier accident case in which the HCD ordered the defendants to pay a compensation of taka 4.61 crore to the victim's family. However, the defendants moved to appeal – which is now pending. Another notable case is the Jaha Alam case. In this case, the HCD ordered BRAC Bank to pay 15 lakhs taka as compensation to jute mill worker Jaha Alam who was wrongfully imprisoned for four years. BRAC Bank moved to the AD seeking a stay on the HCD order. The matter is currently pending.
THE WRITER IS SENIOR STAFF CORRESPONDENT AT THE DAILY STAR.