A total of 9 laws has been passed last year by the Jatiyo Sangsad (National Parliament) in Bangladesh regulating different sectors such as labour, education, social welfare, specification, agriculture, animal welfare. Some of the significant Acts of parliament are summarily discussed in this write-up for the readers of The Daily Star.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aviation and Aerospace University Act
The Act is enacted to establish country’s first aviation and aerospace university in the name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and to keep pace with the progress globally made in tertiary education relating to aviation science and technology. It is a very technical law since it is all about creating various authorities for administrating aviation-related higher education in the country. Academy, institute, college and others educational institution controlled by both Bangladesh Air Force and Civil Aviation Authority come under the authority of this university. Complying with the instructions of both the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission, the main purpose of this university is to offer bachelors, masters, post-graduate diplomas, and other higher degrees through different faculties, departments, institutes and centers.
Bangladesh National Social Welfare Council Act
The Act aims to bring all Bangladesh National Social Welfare Council activities within a single legal framework. In other words, the law is to expedite and consolidate activities of the Bangladesh National Social Welfare Council conducted both locally and nationally. The law has replaced the resolution (dated 25 January 2003) under which the organisation used to be operated. It has various provisions for an 84-member council governing body, the formation of a 19-member executive committee, and the appointment of staffs to the council.
The Insurance Corporation Act
The Act has replaced the Insurance Corporation Act passed back in 1973. The incumbent government after coming into power in 2009 took the initiative to modernise the 1938 Insurance Act and in 2010 enacted a new law named as the Bima Act 2010. The government also made the Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority Act, 2010 to effectively regulate this sector. However, the newly formulated Insurance Corporation Act 2019 is comprised of the provisions from both the Bima Act 2010 and the Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority Act, 2010. One of the most significant changes made in the new law is to increase the ceiling of authorised and paid-up capital for both Jibon Bima Corporation and Sadharan Bima Corporation. The authorised and paid-up capital of Jibon Bima Corporation was previously fixed at BDT 20 crore in 1973, which has now been increased to BDT 300 crore and BDT 30 crore respectively. Similarly, the authorised and paid-up capital of Sadharan Bima Corporation has been increased to BDT 1000 crore and BDT 500 crore respectively. The number of members in the board of directors for Jibon Bima and Sadharan Bima corporations has been increased from seven to eleven people. The provisions regarding insurance of government property as well as eligibility criteria of board of directors have also been updated.
The Plant Variety Protection Act
This Act has been promulgated with the objective of regulating the production, reproduction, sale, use, import and conservation of plant varieties and of establishing the rights of the farmers, who have an indispensable role in ensuring the national food security. The Act acknowledges Bangladesh’s obligations arising out of its membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and international instruments such as the Convention on Biodiversity and Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). The Act lays down that farmers may preserve their rights to newly invented species and may receive financial aid for the conservation and development of landraces from specified funds. It also recognises the right of the farmers in the decision-making process with regard to the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and their right over Traditional Knowledge (TK). The Act contains four conditions which must be fulfilled for any plant species to qualify for conservation under the Act: Novelty, Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability. These four conditions also comply with the recognised international practice. The use of a false name of any registered or conserved species, furnishing of false address in commercial activities and retaining possession over conserved species for production, sale or reproduction are punishable under the Act.
Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act
This Act has been specifically enacted to ensure the rights of the workers in Export Processing Zones. A separate EPZ Wages Board and an EPZ Labour Court is to be established under this Act. The Act also lays down rules regarding the establishment and functioning of Workers’ Welfare Association (WWA) in the EPZs. However, no industrial establishment can have more than one WWA. The Act also imposes prohibitions on participating in the WWA if the worker has been convicted of any offence of moral turpitude and if two years has not passed since the release of such worker. The Executive Chairman is given powers to cancel the registration of a WWA for reasons such as “unfair practices”, actions in contravention of the constitution of the WWA, electing a prohibited person as representative etc. Such decision is appealable. The Act imposes penalty (BDT 50,000 fine and/or imprisonment up to six months) for unfair practices by owners or any persons acting on their behalf. It also penalises unfair practices on behalf of the workers or workers welfare committees. Violation of any agreed settlement is liable for punishment under the Act. The punishment for inciting or causing illegal strike or lock-out is a fine up to 10,000 BDT or imprisonment up to six months.
The Act also contains relevant provisions for female workers. Apart from the general rules on maternity benefit, the Act states that if a female worker is discharged, dismissed or removed from work within a six-month period before and eight week period after childbirth without showing sufficient cause, she shall still be entitled to the maternity benefits. No female worker shall be made to work between 8PM and 6AM without the consent of the worker and the Additional Inspector General.
The Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act of 2019 replaced the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1920. The underlying objective of enacting this law is to ensure just treatment of animals. The law has specially been mindful of the treatment of domesticated animals and animals reared for business purposes. A number of activities have been listed as cruelty towards animals under the Act. The list, however is not exhaustive and there is room for inclusion of other activities through official gazettes. Underfeeding, overfeeding, unnecessary restrictions, withdrawal of medical treatment, using physically unfit animals for reproduction, injecting or providing harmful and unnecessary medicines to the animals, etc have been listed as punishable activities. Imprisonment of up to six months and/or a fine up to Taka ten thousand have been laid down for the listed activities under the law. The exceptions, as have been laid down under the law include use of animals for research and academic purposes and sacrificing animals for religious purposes, among others.
The Act referred to the standards of the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) in identifying the humane ways in which a diseased animal may be put to rest. It also recognises painless death of a diseased animal through euthanasia under the guidance of and with the written permission of a veterinary surgeon. The Act additionally kept room for the discretion of the government to issue gazettes laying down the ways in which animals are to be sacrificed for religious purposes.
Bangladesh Veterinary Council Act
The Bangladesh Veterinary Council Act annuls the previous Bangladesh Veterinary Practitioners’ Ordinance 1982. The objective of the Act is to lay down procedures for the regulation, control and registration of veterinary practitioners in Bangladesh and for legally effectuating the continuation of the Veterinary Council as was constituted under the Ordinance of 1982 in place. The Act lays down the constitution of the council anew, with its administration, term of office, powers and functions, The Act states that without the recognition of the council, offering veterinary education institutionally is prohibited. It lays down the procedure of registration for veterinary practitioners and prohibits the veterinary practicing without certificate and registration. There are also provisions speaking of the duties, responsibilities and privileges for the registered veterinary practitioners. The law also lays down the process for getting non-government veterinary clinics registered and for getting the said registration withdrawn.