BLAST vs. Bangladesh and others [‘CHT Courts’ Case]

Writ Petition No. 606 of 2006

High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Facts:
The three districts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban, were regulated by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation, 1900, under which the Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong had jurisdiction regarding civil and criminal disputes arising out of the region. Due to geographical distance, backlogs of cases and administration of justice by the executive branch rather than the judiciary, the people of the region faced obstacles in terms of access to justice.  Accordingly, in 2003, the Regulations were amended to provide for the establishment of Civil Courts, Sessions Courts and Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Tribunals in each of the three districts. The amendment was to be effected by gazette notification, but no such notification was published for three years.

Argument
: The petitioners argued that the failure of the respondents to set up Courts and Tribunals in accordance with the provisions of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2003 and the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act, 2000 had prejudiced the interest of the people of the region by denying them access to justice. This is discriminatory inasmuch as the residents of the other sixty-one districts in Bangladesh benefit from the operation of such Courts and Tribunals. They further argued that the failure and inaction of the respondents to establish the Courts and Tribunals constituted a flagrant violation of the Hill Tracts residents’ right to equality and to be treated in accordance with law as guaranteed by Articles 27 and 31 of the Constitution.

Order
: The High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 02.02.2006 calling upon the respondents to show cause as to why the provisions of the relevant laws should not be brought into effect by way of publication of a notification in the official gazette. After hearing the parties, the Court on 24.02.2008 delivered a judgment directing the establishment of District Judge and Joint District Judge Courts, also to operate as Sessions Courts and Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Tribunals in the three hill districts within one year.

Laws Cited:
Constitution, Articles 27, 31; The Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2003; The Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act, 2000

Status: The Government has preferred an appeal against the judgment, which is now pending before the Appellate Division, but the operation of the judgment has not been stayed. District Courts have been set up in the Hill Tracts.

Judgment: 61 DLR (HCD) (2009) 109


 

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