Lawyers representing the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) were reprimanded by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain on Tuesday for repeatedly requesting more time to demolish the group’s headquarters in Dhaka.
The 15-storey BGMEA Bhaban stands on a critical spot in the capital, blocking the flow of water between Hatirjheel lake and Begunbari canal, and has been described by the Supreme Court as “a cancer in the Hatirjheel project”.
On March 25 the association sought a year’s extension to the latest deadline to demolish the building.
“You are playing with the court order,” the chief justice told lawyers Kamrul Haque Siddique and Imtiaz Moinul Islam during Tuesday morning’s hearing.
“You come here repeatedly. You should have felt hesitation. It can’t be that the court’s prestige will be harmed while you come [here] for your clients.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of BGMEA Bhaban in 1998 despite the planned construction being in violation of laws meant to protect wetlands.
The High Court first ordered the BGMEA to move forward with demolition work on April 3, 2011. The association filed a leave to appeal against the verdict which was later dismissed by the top court.
In June 2016, the Appellate Division upheld the High Court verdict ordering the demolition of the structure and told the BGMEA to bear the cost of demolition.
On March 12,2017, the Supreme Court accepted a BGMEA appeal for an extension and gave the association six more months, until September 11.
The continued delays to the demolition project incensed Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain on Tuesday.
“Wasn’t it necessary to carry out the court’s order?” he said to the BGMEA lawyers. “On how many occasions did you seek time? You will come again and seek time.”
Lawyer Kamrul said they had sought deadline extensions on three separate occasions as his client tried to find an alternative to the 60,000-square feet premises.
“We are looking for space,” the lawyer said. “We have mentioned the steps taken in the application.”
The court replied: “From the steps you have taken, it appears that it will take five years. Then you will seek time again.”
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Kamrul said it was his “professional duty” to file time petitions for his clients. The chief justice dismissed this claim, saying the court’s duty comes first.
“You (the BGMEA) are very intelligent,” he said. “Will you get a building of the same size anywhere? Because you won’t get such a big space at one place, you will move the court.”
When asked to explain the steps taken by the BGMEA in the past year, Kamrul said they had purchased 110 kantha of land.
The court responded: “At this pace, it will take five years. Because piling work is now going on. After a few days, you will say that a basement is being constructed.”
The lawyer assured the court that it would not take much time, but the court appeared unimpressed.
It said: “Then you will have to submit an undertaking that you will not seek more time. After that we can give it (time plea) a thought.”
Kamrul then requested the court for time, but the court said it would not issue such an order on Tuesday.
The bench then asked Rajuk lawyer Attorney General Mahbubey Alam about steps taken by the capital’s development authority. “I did not get any directive from the government in this matter. I represented Rajuk before because I had directives,” he said.
Lawyer Manzill Murshid then told the court that Rajuk was ready to execute the court’s order.
The court said: “Many buildings have been demolished overnight. They were not given any time … Extending time here will be unfair. If time is extended this way, then none of the court’s order will be executed.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com