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Hill Tract People Do Not Have Court Access in Bangladesh

PRWEB Press Release (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/5/prweb382477.htm)

Even 36 years after the independence the people of Chittagong Hill Tracts have virtually no access to justice.

New York, (PRWEB) May 8, 2006 — Even 36 years after the independence the people of Chittagong Hill Tracts have virtually no access to justice, as a proposal for setting up of law courts in the three hill districts has been gathering dust for about three years at the office of the National Implementation Committee for Administrative Reform/Reorganization.

There are court buildings at Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban district headquarters, but still no district and sessions judges there. The local people, indigenous or Bangali (those who speak Bangla) settlers have to trek all the way to Chittagong for filing a lawsuit and the divisional commissioner or additional divisional commissioner, being an officer of the executive arm of the state, dispenses judicial functions in the cases in accordance with the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900.

Most of the criminal offences, including murders and rapes, go unnoticed in the hill districts as the local people want to avoid all the hassles of traveling to Chittagong to fight a legal battle and seek justice against a criminal offence, a number of locals told New Age. Considering the infringement of the fundamental rights of the hill people to access to justice, the caretaker government of 2001 took an initiative for establishment of district and sessions judge’s courts in the three hill districts for the first time in September, 2001. The caretaker administration had also prepared a draft of an ordinance for promulgation making necessary amendments to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900.

The ordinance, however, was not promulgated, as the political parties reportedly asked the caretaker government not to do so on grounds that it was a policy decision, which the interim administration was not mandated to take.

Finally the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2003 was enacted on September 21, 2003 making mandatory provisions for establishment of civil and criminal courts (district and sessions judge’s court) in the three CHT districts.

The amended law, however, is yet to be given effect despite continuous sufferings of about 1.4 million people of the CHT.

When asked about it, law minister, Moudud Ahmed, told reporters: ‘the law has not been given effect because the National Implementation Committee for Administrative Reforms/Reorganization is yet to approve the proposal for establishment of law courts in the hill districts.’ He, however, could not confirm when the proposal would be placed before the committee, which is headed by the prime minister. According to sources in the law ministry, the proposal was sent to the NICARR in September, 2003.

‘The issue now depends on policy decision of the government and nothing else,’ a top leader of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told local newsmen.

The establishment of criminal courts in the hill districts is a longstanding demand of the 14 lakh people, including the indigenous people and Bengali settlers, of the region.

Meanwhile, the High Court on February 2 issued a rule on the government to explain within four weeks why it would not be directed to give effect to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2003 and Section 26 of the Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act, 2000 that stipulated establishment of criminal and civil courts and tribunals for prevention of women and children repression in the hill districts. The court passed the order after hearing a public-interest-litigation writ petition filed by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and three individuals from Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban. The Bangladesh government is, however, yet to reply to the rule, said sources in the attorney general’s office.



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