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Dhaka Tribune

Call for introducing city courts to settle petty disputes

Due to a backlog of millions of cases, the courts fail to get to minor cases in due time

Update : 10 Oct 2020, 09:15 PM

Speakers on a virtual discussion program pushed for establishing a new court that would allow for the settlement of minor issues for city dwellers as Village Courts do for villages, and the Conciliation of Disputes Board in municipalities.

A virtual discussion session on “City Court Act: Proposed Outline and Possibility of Implementation,” was organized jointly by the Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), Citizen’s Platform for SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), and Nagorik Uddyog, on Saturday morning.

Speakers at the seminar said, as millions of cases remain pending in the courts of the country, residents of cities would prefer to settle trivial disputes at the local level outside court to avoid delays, harassment, and spending money on court cases.

MLAA, one of the partners of the platform, is formulating the law voluntarily so that it can be a tool to ease the way for ensuring citizen’s rights by the local administration, said Khan Mohammad Shahid, chief coordinator of MLAA.

The keynote speakers said there are around 3.6 million cases still pending at different levels of court. The number of cases against one judge in the country is around 1,883 cases, while the number of judges for 100,000 citizens is about 0.73. The ratio is higher in the city.

As a result, several million city residents are facing financial losses, harassment, and various inconveniences, and there are also delays in settling small disputes in the courts, he said.

No law has been enacted to resolve petty disputes between citizens in city corporation areas, said Khan Mohammad Shahid, adding that people in the city have to go to court for a small case and wait at least two years to resolve it.

So, local settlement of petty disputes through a new court can ensure an easier and quicker resolution of such disputes under every city corporation's jurisdiction, he added.

Professor Tofail Ahmed, local governance expert, agreed with the idea, saying the city court can be an alternate dispute resolution system.

However, while praising the idea, Advocate ZI Khan Panna, Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyer, said the use of the term "city court" involves various processes, including the appointment of judges and lawyers.

Advocate ZI Khan said, however, that many people abuse the village courts or local courts with filing false cases. So, while formulating laws, these matters should be addressed as well.  

Convenor of Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Debapriya Bhattacharya, Architect Iqbal Habib, Chief Executive of Nagorik Uddyog, Zakir Hossain, all participated in the discussion and highlighted that ensuring people’s access to justice and an overall rethinking of the governance system is required.

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