Public interest litigation rising in HC
Gulam Rabbani :
Public interest litigation is increasing in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court in recent days.
A couple of writ cases have been lodged for adulteration of pasteurized milk and bottled water, environment pollution, gas price hike, river grabbing and pollution, formalin in fruits, and road accidents in last few months.
Such lawsuits are being discussed as those are filed in the defense of the fundamental rights given to the Constitution.
Supreme Court lawyers filed most of the cases as a voluntary move and sometimes on behalf of an organization or a person.
Both the divisions of the Supreme Court, the High Court Division and the Appellate Division, are also responding to such cases with importance. In many cases, the HC are passing orders as Suo Moto (voluntary move). As a result, the litigants are being able to defense their fundamental rights.
About the public interest litigation, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, "In the public interest litigation, we have to look at whether Â
there is actually any public interest involved. Or the case was filed to embarrass the government or for any other special purpose. A court should consider these before intervene a case."
Public interest litigation was first introduced in USA in 1960. Such case was first lodged in Bangladesh in 1996 named "Mohiuddin Faruq verses the State". The petitioner sought remedy in the case for possible adverse reactions to the environment in a particular area of the country due to a controversial flood control project.
The Supreme Court administration does not have any separate statistics on public interest litigations. But the litigations are increasing day by day. The courts are also giving time in hearing this type of cases.
Some NGOs like Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), Bangladesh Legal Aids and Services Trust (BLAST), Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA), Children Charity Foundation (CCF) and some others are regularly filing public interest litigations in the High Court Division.
Besides these organizations, some lawyers of the Supreme Court are filing such cases.
HRPB President Advocate Manzill Murshid said, "Public interest litigation is needed due to the inaction of the administration. When the administration shows inaction in implementing the law then such cases need to be filed to protect the fundamental rights of the people."
Article 26 to 47 of the Constitution describes the fundamental rights of a citizen of the country. Only the State and its constituent bodies violate these rights. If these fundamental rights are violated, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court may, under Article 102 of the Constitution, make it a forceful and judicial review.
This jurisdiction of the High Court Division is called writ jurisdiction. Five kinds of writ petitions, including public interest litigation, can be filed in the HC.