Final say stays with president

The High Court

 

The government has finally issued a gazette notification on the discipline of lower court judges, keeping the president's authority over their conduct.

The president will make necessary decisions in consultation with the Supreme Court, and the law ministry will implement those, a high official of the ministry said interpreting the contents of the 24-page notification titled “Bangladesh Judicial Service (Discipline) Rules 2017”.

The official, requesting anonymity, told The Daily Star last night that the president is the appointing authority of all the judges including the chief justice.

The president will appoint an investigation officer (IO) or form a three-member committee to conduct probe into any allegation brought against a lower court judge under the disciplinary rules, the official said.

The IO or the probe body will be appointed from the judicial service and a district judge will head the committee.

 

The IO or the probe committee members will not be from the rank below that of the judicial officer against whom allegation has been brought.

The president will provide the inquiry report and statements of witnesses and the accused official to the committee chief and members and the complainant.

The IO will start probing in 10 days and finish the investigation in four months from the date of receiving the order.

If the IO cannot complete the probe in four months, he or she will inform it to the president through the SC in black and white mentioning the reasons.

Departmental case can be lodged against a lower court judge for misconduct, including corruption and involvement in acts subversive towards the state.

In the rules, corruption or involvement in graft means wealth or lifestyle of the official or his or her family members inconsistent with known income, and failure to produce a credible explanation for this.

The president will impose sentences including dismissal, suspension, forced leave, rebuke and suspension of promotion and annual increment of salary against the accused judicial officer if the allegation is proved.

If an allegation is brought against any lower court judge of committing criminal offence and any court concerned takes cognizance of the allegation for trial, the court will inform it to the president through the SC.

The president will issue necessary orders about suspending the accused judge on advice from the SC, the rules said, adding that if the judge is suspended, the suspension will continue until the court takes the final decision.

The ministry official said following the issuance of the gazette notification on the disciplinary rules, the Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1985, will not be applicable for the judicial officials.

There was no provision of consulting the SC in the rules of 1985, he said.

The government has so far taken time from the SC on 28 occasions since May 2015 for issuing the gazette notification.

During the hearing of Masdar Hossain case, also known as the judiciary separation case, the apex court on Sunday asked the government to submit the gazette notification to it on Wednesday (tomorrow).

Earlier, the then chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha wanted to see the rules curb the power of the president regarding the control of lower court judges.  

He also expressed annoyance and dissatisfaction several times at the government's failure to issue the gazette notification while he was presiding over a bench of the apex court.

Yesterday, Law Secretary ASSM Zahirul Haque Dulal told The Daily Star that the ministry has issued gazette notification on the disciplinary rules in line with article 116 of the constitution.

Article 116 of the constitution allows the president to control the posting, promotion and leave of the lower court judges in consultation with the SC.

“The control [including the power of posting, promotion and grant of leave] and discipline of persons employed in the judicial service and magistrates exercising judicial functions shall vest in the president and shall be exercised by him in consultation with the Supreme Court,” says the article, in its current form.

After finalising the rules, the law ministry on November 30 sent those to the president through the prime minister for approval.

As President Abdul Hamid recently approved the rules, the law ministry yesterday issued the gazette notification to this effect.

Earlier, the SC had gone through the draft of the rules and sent it back to the ministry with its opinions.

On November 16 this year, Law Minister Anisul Huq met five judges of the Appellate Division of the SC and discussed the rules and then told The Daily Star that the problem regarding issuance of a gazette notification determining the discipline of lower court judges had been solved.

On November 5, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters that Justice Sinha wanted to see that the rules curb the president's authority on the discipline of lower court judges. The government, therefore, was trying to resolve the issue through discussions with the SC and the law ministry, he added.

Article 116 of the original charter of 1972 had empowered the SC to decide on the posting, promotion and leave of lower court judges. The top court had also control over the magistrates' exercise of judicial powers and could discipline the judicial service staffers when necessary.

Over the years, this article has been amended several times, curtailing the apex court's powers.

Currently, the powers to control and discipline subordinate courts are vested in the president, who exercises these powers in consultation with the SC.

On December 11 last year, the law ministry issued a notification, which said the president decided not to issue a separate gazette notification on the disciplinary rules for the lower court judges.

The following day, Justice Sinha said the president has been misinformed about issuance of gazette notification on the rules determining discipline of lower court judges.

Officials of the ministry would not have done this if they had the minimum knowledge, he said.

The lower judiciary was separated from the executive branch on November 1, 2007, following the SC directives in the Masdar Hossain case.

Defamation, Sedition: 5 more cases filed against Mahmudur

Mahmudur Rahman

Mahmudur Rahman.

 

Five more cases were filed yesterday against Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman in as many districts for making “derogatory remarks” about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Abdus Salam, general secretary of Manikganj district Awami League, filed a defamation lawsuit with the Manikganj Senior Judicial Magistrate's Court seeking Tk 1,000 crore in damages.

Salam in the case statement said the journalist at a programme in the capital on December 1 made derogatory comments about Bangabandhu and Hasina and he was hurt by the comments.

He said such remarks by Mahmudur were “a threat to the country” and legal action should be taken against him.

In Gaibandha, a sedition case was filed against Mahmudur for making “indecent and insulting statements” on the Bangabandhu's family and the country.

 

Sarder Shahid Hasan Loton, president of Gaibandha Jubo League, filed the case with the Cognisance Court of Gaibandha.

The plaintiff in the case statement said the acting editor of the Bangla daily on December 1 took part in a seminar on restoration of democracy and the role of media, organised by Bangladesh Democratic Council at the Jatiya Press Club.

He said Mahmudur at the programme made “aggressive statements” on Bangabandhu, the prime minister and his granddaughter Tulip Siddiq. By terming Bangladesh “a colony of India”, he “denied the country's independence and sovereignty”, added Shahid.

According to the case statement, Mahmudur further said Bangabandhu had “killed democracy” on January 25, 1975 by forming BAKSAL and “killed and buried” the country's media on June 16 that year.

The court accepted the case and issued a summons for Mahmudur to appear before it on January 30 next year, said plaintiff's lawyer Niranjan Kumar Ghosh.

In Sylhet, another case was filed against the journalist on charges of defamation and sedition.

Rahat Tarafdar, former president of Sylhet metropolitan Chhatra League, filed the case with Sylhet Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court accusing Mahmudur of showing disregard to the state and the Liberation War. The plaintiff also sought Tk 500 crore in damages.

The court ordered the Police Bureau of Investigation to probe the matter and submit a report to it in seven working days, said Mahfuzur Rahman, additional public prosecutor of the court.

In Jessore, a sedition case was filed against Mahmudur with the Judicial Magistrate's Court, said court sources.

Mashiar Rahman Sagor, an executive member of Jessore AL and also the chairman of Kashimpur Union Parishad in Jessore, filed the case.

The plaintiff accused Mahmudur of using abusive language at the premier and her family members during the December 1 programme in Dhaka.

Accepting the case, the court fixed Tuesday for passing an order.

In Khulna, Nazia Ahmed Borna, president of Khulna Metropolitan Jubo Mohila League, filed a case against the acting editor.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Md Amirul Islam ordered the OC of Khulna Sadar Police Station to investigate the charges of defamation and sedition and take necessary action.

On Saturday, two sedition cases were filed against Mahmudur in Dinajpur and Kurigram.

 An AL leader filed another case against the journalist in Natore on December 7 on the same charges.

Our correspondents in Manikganj, Gaibandha, Sylhet, Jessore and Khulna contributed to this report.

Nightmare in Rakhine

 

The use of rape by Myanmar's armed forces has been sweeping and methodical, The Associated Press found in interviews with Rohingya women and girls now in Bangladesh.

Here are the accounts as told by 21 women and girls. They agreed to be identified in this story by their first initial only.

SHE IS ONLY 13

She is only 13, but R had already learned to fear the military men.

One day in late August, 10 soldiers barged into R's house. They snatched her two little brothers, tied them to a tree and beat them.

R tried to run out the front door, but the men caught her. They tethered her arms to two trees. All ten men forced themselves on her before she passed out.

RAPED TWICE

F and her husband were asleep at home in June when seven soldiers charged into their bedroom. The men bound her husband with rope and gagged him with a scarf they ripped from F's head.

They yanked off F's jewellery and stripped off her clothes. They threw her to the floor, where the first soldier began to rape her.

In September, her nightmare began again. F was asleep at a neighbour's house when five soldiers broke down the door. The soldiers slashed the throat of the 5-year-old boy who lived there and killed his father. They stripped off the women's clothes. Two men raped F, and three men raped her friend.

SHE COULDN'T RUN

K and her family were settling down to breakfast one morning in late August when they heard the screams of other villagers outside. Her husband and three oldest children bolted out the door.

But K was nearly 9 months pregnant and had two toddlers to watch.

The men barged in, threw her on the bed. They ripped off her clothes and tied down her hands and legs with rope. When she resisted, they choked her. And then they began to rape her.

I WAS IN IMMENSE PAIN

R was at home in late August with her husband and five of her six children when she heard a commotion outside. She saw houses going up in flames in her village.

Her husband ran out, but she had the children to take care of. Five soldiers barged into the house. Her children screamed and ran outside.

The men stripped off her clothes, took her necklace and kicked her in her back with their knees. Then one of the men began to rape her, while the other four held her down and hit her with their guns.

"I was in immense pain," she says.

THEY HIT HER UNTIL SHE FELL

A was at home praying with her four children in late August when about 50 soldiers surrounded her village and opened fire on the men.

Three men burst into her house and told her to get out. She refused. They beat her. Her children screamed. The soldiers slapped them, then threw them out of the house.

Two of the soldiers hit her until she fell. One pressed his boot against her chest, pinning her down. Then all three raped her.

THE BABY GIRL WAS DEAD

M was at home feeding her son rice in late August when a bullet from the military blasted through the bamboo wall of her house and struck her teenage brother.

Her husband and children ran out of the house. But M was 8 months pregnant, and did not want to leave her brother behind. For two days, she stayed by his side, until he died.

Soon after, four soldiers charged into her house.

They dragged her outside the house, stripped her and beat her. The first man began to rape her, while the other two held her down and punched and kicked her pregnant belly.

After the second rape, she kicked them so ferociously, they finally left.

M felt intense cramping in her belly. She gave birth that night at home. The baby girl was dead. M buried the infant in an unmarked grave by her house.

CHILDREN REFUSED TO LEAVE HER SIDE

H was reciting the sunrise prayer at home in late August with her husband and six children. A dozen soldiers burst through her door and started beating her husband. They grabbed three of her children by their feet, carried them outside and bashed them against trees, killing them.

Her husband screamed, and H ran out of the house. As she fled, she heard gunshots behind her. She never saw her husband again.

She made it with her three other children to the nearby hills, where other women from her village were hiding. But soldiers descended upon the women and dragged them away to rape them.

Her crying children refused to leave her side during the assault. The soldiers slapped them, kicked them, tried to shove them away. They refused to budge.

When the soldiers finished, her 8-year-old daughter tried to cover her naked body with her torn clothing.

BABIES WENT UP IN FLAMES

When seven soldiers stormed into the house in October 2016, S's husband fled. The soldiers began beating her parents.

A soldier beat S with his gun, ripped two of her babies from her arms and dropped them on the floor. Two soldiers took S to a field. They held her down and raped her.

When it was over, she hid in the hills but eventually returned home.

In August, S was at home with her family when the military began firing rocket launchers at houses, setting them ablaze. Her husband and two eldest children fled, but she stayed behind to pack up her baby girls and a few belongings. One baby was in a swing, the other sleeping on the floor.

A rocket launcher hit the house. The babies went up in flames before her eyes.

ALL THREE RAPED HER

The military surrounded N's village one early morning in late August. Around 18 soldiers stormed her house, and dragged N outside with her sister-in-law and mother-in-law.

The women were taken to the centre of the village. Three men then took her to the hills and stripped her naked. Two men held down her hands while a third raped her. Then they switched positions. All three raped her.

THEY SLASHED HER HUSBAND'S NECK

There was no warning before five soldiers suddenly stormed into 16-year-old S's house one morning in early August. They slashed her husband's neck, killing him.

Two soldiers pulled her into a room, snatched her 3-month-old son from her arms and put him on the floor. They searched her clothes for valuables and took her earrings. Another three men came in and began to beat her with guns while the others stripped off her clothes.

One soldier held down her hands, and another put his gun in her mouth. All five men raped her.

SHE NEVER SAW HER SON AGAIN

The soldiers had been harassing T's family for days: Showing up and stealing their food, urinating in their rice, hitting T and, once, stripping off her clothes.

And then one morning in mid-August, five men dragged her husband out of the house, where they slashed his neck. They grabbed her 10-year-old son and dragged him outside; she never saw him again. Her 12-year-old daughter managed to flee.

The soldiers pinned her to the floor. Two men held her while the first man raped her. Then they switched.

CLEARLY BEEN RAPED

N's husband was walking down a road in late August when several villagers saw soldiers grab him and drag him into the hills. Later that day, children in the hills came upon his head, along with several other corpses. Soldiers were milling around near the bodies.

N stayed in her house with her 8-year-old daughter for the next few days, unable to stop crying. Then suddenly, around 80 soldiers descended on the village. Five soldiers came to her door and shouted: "Who's inside?"

The men barged in.

They ripped her clothes off and beat her in the head with a gun until she blacked out. When she awoke, her vagina was swollen, bleeding and covered in sores. She had clearly been raped; by how many men, she does not know.

SHE BLED FOR SIX DAYS

N, 17, was at home with her parents and siblings in late August when she heard the crackle of gunfire. Suddenly, 10 men burst into the house.

Five men then took turns raping her, while the others helped hold her down. Her parents were forced to watch. When they screamed, the soldiers beat them. Eventually, they stood in silence as their daughter was assaulted.

After the men left, N's parents untied her and washed her. She bled for six days.

THEY LAUGHED AT HER

Around 100 soldiers surrounded A's village one afternoon in late August. A's husband fled, leaving her alone in the house with their 2-year-old son.

Two soldiers came into her house. They tore off her clothes. She wept and begged them to stop. Then they shoved her to the ground, laughing at her.

One soldier pressed his knife to her right hip and cut into her flesh. Both of them punched her in the face. The men then took turns raping her.

TEARING HER FLESH WITH THEIR TEETH

M was at home with her husband, her sister-in-law and her sister-in-law's brother in late August when security forces stormed their village. The husbands fled, leaving M alone in the house with her sister-in-law, who was in the shower.

Three men kicked the door open. They tied M's arms behind her back.

They dragged her sister-in-law out of the shower. They bit her face and body, tearing her flesh with their teeth. All three men raped her.

One of the men came over to M, stripped her clothes off and took her earrings and then raped her.

SHE STIFLED HER SCREAMS

D was at home one evening in late August when she heard noise outside. Her two older sons and husband rushed out of the house, leaving her alone with her 3-year-old boy. Three men entered her home. She screamed and her son began to cry.

One man restrained her arms and held a knife to her hip while the other two men raped her. She feared the men would kill her, so she stifled her screams.

IT WAS NEVER-ENDING

It was late August and K was around four months pregnant when soldiers swarmed her village.

Four men smashed the door open, tied up her husband and began beating and kicking the couple's children. They kicked K's 3-year-old daughter in the head so hard that she died of her injuries three days later.

They tied her up and began to rape her, one after the other. The men kicked her so viciously, she feared the baby inside her would die. "It was never-ending," she says now.

SHE FEARED HER BABY WAS DYING

S was pregnant and at home with her family in late August when 20 soldiers surrounded her village. All the men in the area fled, including her husband. Four soldiers burst into the house, grabbed her two crying toddlers and beat them.

They ripped her clothes off, and threw her to the floor. One man held her left arm, one held her right arm and one held down her legs, while the fourth man raped her. Then they switched.

They kicked and punched her so hard, she feared the baby inside her was dying. Finally, they left.

IT LASTED FOR HOURS

It was mid-afternoon one day in late August when about 10 men in camouflage uniforms entered M's house. Her three children began to scream and cry. Five men took her husband away, and four forced her out of the house and into the nearby hills.

One of the men held a gun to her. They bit her face and her body and hit her. They tied her mouth with her own headscarf. And then three of the men held her down while the other man raped her. The attack lasted for hours.

TEN MEN RAPED HER

F was at home in late August when she heard screaming outside. Her husband went to investigate and saw that about 300 soldiers and Buddhist villagers had surrounded the area.

About eight soldiers and villagers grabbed F's husband and tied his hands behind his back. Around 100 men took F, her mother and about 20 other women to another village. The soldiers beat them with guns, kicking and slapping them.

Once they reached the next village, the women were forced to lie down on the ground next to each other. The men tied their wrists together with rope and began to rape them.

Ten men raped F.

SHE WAS IN AGONY

S was lying in bed with her husband and son after dinner in late August when around 10 soldiers burst into the house. A few took her husband outside. Five stayed behind, and one pointed his gun at her.

She tried to run, but they grabbed her and kicked her back, stomach and chest. They stripped off her clothes and took her necklace and earrings. Three men raped her.

S was in agony. After the men were finished, they took her outside, naked. Her son followed them. About two dozen other women, also naked, had been dragged outside as well.

The soldiers forced the women to march toward a rice paddy, beating and kicking them as they walked. S felt blood running down her legs. Once they arrived, the men ordered them to lie down. S fought back and soldiers kicked her. She fell to the ground.

Three more soldiers began to rape her. (Abridged)

Rohingya camps lack basic facilities: Sultana Kamal

Rohingya refugee Kutupalong camp

Three Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar lack basic facilities like food, health and shelter, rights activist Sultana Kamal says on Sunday, December 11, 2017. In this Reuters photo taken yesterday, mother of Yousuf Nabi, a 27-year-old Rohingya refugee and landmine victim, returns to her family's shelter where he is resting, at Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar.

 

Three Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar lack basic facilities like food, health and shelter, rights activist Sultana Kamal said today.

There is a continued risk of human trafficking at the refugee camps, Sultana Kamal said while addressing a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) in the capital.She was briefing journalists about a recent fact finding mission on Rohingya refugees by South Asian Human Rights (SAHR).

Sultana Kamal, also the chairman of SAHR, came up with the remarks after a six-member team led by her visited three Rohingya refugee camps at Kutupalong, Balukhali and Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar from December 7 to 11.

sultana kamal rohingya camps
Sultana Kamal addresses the press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) in the capital. Photo: Amran Hossain

More than 640,000 of the Muslim minority have fled into Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar since late August, when the Myanmar army launched a sweeping crackdown on the Rohingyas in Rakhine state.

“There is a lack of access to clean and potable water in the camps. Instances of tube-wells being dug too close to toilets have led to acute watery diarrhea outbreak in some parts of the camps,” reads a press note issued by the SAHR.

 

SARH called up on the government of Bangladesh to take effective measures to prevent the influence of extremist forces and human traffickers in the refugee camps.

It also urged the government of Myanmar to create a conductive environment for the safe return of the refugees by ending all violence and committing to end discrimination.

Tk 20,000cr lost a year for air pollution

air water pollution loss 20000cr

 

The country, especially its urban areas, is facing severe air and water pollution due to rapid and unplanned urbanisation, show the preliminary findings of a World Bank study.

It is losing one percent (around Tk 20,000 crore) of the gross domestic product every year due to air pollution, according to the study.  

The country's GDP stands at nearly Tk 20.88 trillion as per the latest data of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

Titled “Bangladesh Country Environment Analysis 2017”, the study found people living in the urban areas are inhaling extremely unhealthy air. They are also exposed to lead, arsenic, cadmium, pesticide and sulphur dioxide from different sources.

Air in the capital and its nearby Gazipur and Narayanganj cities remains highly polluted for several months in a year.  It gets worst in February and March, showed a presentation on the findings during a workshop at a city hotel yesterday.

The brick kilns are the biggest polluter of air. They contribute 38 percent micro-pollutants while motor vehicles are responsible for 19 percent, road dust 18, solid dust nine and metal smelters seven percent.

 

Another major problem is lead. Nearly 600,000 people living in 59 hotspots in Dhaka and its adjacent areas are exposed to lead contamination. 

The study identified 20 battery recycling areas, 23 lead smelting hotspots and four multiple industries and industrial estates as the main sources of lead-induced pollution.

Lead can cause neurological damage, especially among children, at any detectable level, it said, noting that mean blood lead levels are at 14-15ug/dl in Dhaka's industrial areas.

The report also found that just to produce one tonne of fabrics, the dyeing and finishing factories discharge 200 tonnes of wastewater into rivers leading to health hazards in the capital's poorer neighbourhoods.

There are a total of 719 such washing, dyeing and finishing factories in and around Dhaka, it mentioned. 

The cities also suffer from waterlogging due to heavy rainfall. They are vulnerable to flood because of wetland encroachments and lack of waste management.

On October 22 this year, just 233mm of rainfall inundated 60 percent area under the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) and 27 percent of developed areas.

It is not only the case of the capital. For example, Pabna, which has lost nearly half of its wetlands since 1990, faces prolonged waterlogging.

The report, to be launched early next year, focused on four areas: cost of environmental degradation, urban wetlands, cleaner technologies and institutions.

It recommended that the government should incorporate wetlands into urban planning and invest in waste management to improve the cities' resilience.

The study also suggested enforcing environment policies and strengthening institutions.

It said the government should provide incentives to industries to adopt green and clean technologies and enforce polluter's pay principle -- a practice that those who are responsible for pollution should bear the costs of managing it.  

As Bangladesh is rapidly urbanising, the report suggests that the country needs to manage the urbanisation and industrialisation process in an environmentally sustainable way.

“When growth comes at the cost of environment, it cannot sustain. The good news is that we have seen it is possible to grow cleaner and greener without growing slower,” said Zahid Hussain, World Bank's acting country director for Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh must plan and act now to prevent environmental degradation and ensure climate resilience.”

Anwar Hossain Manju, minister for environment and forests, was present on the occasion as the chief guest. Many other policy makers, government officials, environmentalists, urban planners, and civil society representatives attended the programme and discussed the findings of the report.

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