HC kept in wait
Not even the High Court's repeated expressions of disappointment could make powerful public and private organisations respond in time to its directives in the public litigation case relating to last year's Tazreen Fashions fire.
Anthropologists Naznin Akter Banu, Saydia Gulrukh Kamal and Mahmudul Hasan Sumon filed the litigation on April 28, seeking directives on the government to arrest Tazreen owner Md Delwar Hossain to ensure his trial for criminal liabilities.
The HC bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain has been dealing with this case since May and at every proceeding, it had to struggle to get reports from government or private organisations.
The deadliest factory fire in the nation's history burned to death at least 112 garment workers and injured many others at the Ashulia-based Tazreen Fashions on November 24 last year.
After repeated directives for over a month, the law officer submitted the home ministry probe report on June 19, although it was prepared in December and the ministry is just a 20-minute walk from the court.
Also on June 19, the HC directed the labour ministry and Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to submit separate reports on the compensation disbursed to the fire victims. The same day, it also asked the inspector general of police (IGP) to place the DNA test report of relatives of those who went missing in the incident.
July 18 was the deadline for all the submissions.
But none of the government and private offices responded to the directives as the court sat on July 21 instead of July 18 due to a hartal.
The judges expressed their serious discontent over the failures and gave seven more days to comply with their order.
Yesterday, the law officer, Deputy Attorney General Bishowjit Roy, told the court that the government officials concerned had not communicated with him about any report. "The court may ask them to appear in person with an explanation."
However, the judges did not accept his proposal and asked the IGP to submit the DNA test report on September 17, the next date of hearing in the case.
"We are giving him [IGP] one last chance to submit the DNA test report," said the presiding judge of the bench, Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque. "We will take stern action if the order of the court is not complied with by the next date."
Also yesterday, BGMEA's counsel Abdul Mannan told the court he had received a report on compensation from the BGMEA on Saturday. Even he said he did not get any order from the court about submitting the report.
In response, the presiding judge said the court had come to know from the media that BGMEA had sent him the report a month ago.
Justice Altaf Hossain told the lawyer, "You were present in the court on July 21, and you know our order. If you follow such practice, we will refer you to the Bangladesh Bar Council for action against you.”
Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque then asked Mannan to submit the compensation report by 2:00pm on the day. Mannan submitted it accordingly.
Earlier on July 21, BGMEA President Atiqul Islam told The Daily Star that his office had sent the compensation report to the lawyer around a month ago.
BGMEA in its report said out of a total of 141 injured workers, 90 sustaining grievous injuries were compensated and each of them got Tk 1 lakh. The rest, who suffered minor injuries, got medical treatment and medicine but no cash compensation.
The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the report.
Out of the 112 dead, 99 have been identified till now and the process of identifying the remaining 13 is going on through DNA tests, according to the report. Tk 7 lakh in compensation was paid to the heirs/dependants of each of the 99 victims.
Yesterday morning, Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain appeared before the HC bench as per its July 21 order.
The bench later in the day ordered him to appear before it on September 17 and also asked the anthropologists' lawyer, barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, to submit a statement on the missing, or those who got insufficient or no compensation by that day.
Earlier, Jyotirmoy Barua submitted two separate reports to the HC, saying some 62 persons were still missing and their family members have got insufficient or no compensation.
The lawyer, however, told The Daily Star that he was trying to know whether all the 62 were on the BGMEA list.