2019 Dengue Outbreak: Uncertainty over hearing of judicial probe report
The High Court could not deliver its decision on a judicial inquiry committee's findings over the dengue outbreak in 2019 even 16 months after the submission of the probe report.
The committee, formed by an HC bench, found "partial negligence" of the authorities concerned of Dhaka south and north city corporations over the dengue outbreak in 2019 when Bangladesh saw the highest number of over 1 lakh dengue cases and 179 deaths.
If the hearing on probe report takes place, the HC can pass an order over the issue and hold the authorities concerned accountable for their "negligence" and order departmental action against them, Supreme Court lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan, editor of Dhaka Law Reports, told The Daily Star yesterday.
But the HC could not hold a hearing on the issue in all these months. Even it has become uncertain as to when the court will deal with the case and pass an order.
The uncertainty existed because the jurisdiction of the then HC bench, which had issued the suomuto (voluntary) directive to this effect, has been reconstituted following the promotion of its presiding judge.
Besides, vacations and closure of the court's functions during the ongoing pandemic also caused the delay, said court sources.
At least 101,354 dengue cases were reported in 2019, of which 49,544 were outside Dhaka. The number of deaths was 179, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Following the record-breaking cases, the HC bench of Justice Tariq ul Hakim and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir Lytton, during a hearing of a suomuto (voluntary) rule on November 12, 2019, formed the probe committee led by Dhaka District Judge Md Helal Chowdhury.
The committee was asked to identify the persons responsible for outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya in Dhaka.
The bench ordered the probe body to submit the inquiry report before it.
On March 10 last year, the judicial probe committee submitted the report to the HC bench through Deputy Attorney General Amit Dasgupta.
In the report, the committee said, "Based on experts' opinions and analysis of other information, it appears that Dhaka north and south city corporations were partially negligent over the dengue outbreak in 2019, but they cannot be held fully responsible for it.
Besides, nobody is solely responsible for the surge in dengue cases, it said.
The committee talked to experts and recommended that an integrated initiative was needed to prevent the spread of dengue and chikungunya.
Though it is the duty of city corporations to fight mosquitoes, it is not possible for them to do so alone; it has to be done in a coordinated way, the probe body said, suggesting taking up short-, mid- and long-term plans.
Contacted, DAG Amit Dasgupta told The Daily Star that the report has been sent to the section concerned of the HC after the bench led by Justice Tariq ul Hakim was reconstituted following his promotion to the Appellate Division.
"Annual vacations of the court and closure of its functions due to the ongoing pandemic are delaying the hearing and the subsequent order on this matter," he said.
He said the settlement of the matter became uncertain as there is no petitioner or party of the case (suomuto rule).
If the state places the matter before the chief justice for assigning an HC bench for dealing with the matter, then it might be settled otherwise it will remain uncertain, he added.
When asked whether his office will take any initiative for the HC hearing and disposal of the suomuto rule, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin told The Daily Star on July 27 that he does not know anything about the issue and he cannot make any comment.
"I have just heard from you about the High Court's suomuto rule over the dengue menace in 2019. I have to know the details and then I will take necessary steps," he added.