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Dhaka Tribune

Cases filed won’t benefit victims

Update : 29 Apr 2013, 05:47 AM

None of the cases filed in connection with the Savar tragedy will ultimately benefit victims, particularly regarding compensation. Because they have been filed under sections of the law that refer to ensuring punishment and fines.

Legal experts observed while the state may distribute any sum from fines, if imposed, to victims, if the government wants to, however, victims of the incident cannot claim compensation based on their rights, even if the judgment calls on perpetrators to pay a fine.

Police and the Rajdhani Unnoyan Kartripokkho (Rajuk) filed two separate cases with the police on April 24, the same day Rana Plaza collapsed, accusing the owner of the building Sohel Rana and the owners of the garment units for loss of lives and damages.

An official of Rajuk, Helal Uddin’s case is filed on charges of structural faults and the use of substandard and unspecified construction materials under section 12 of the Building Construction Act, 1952 while Sub-Inspector (SI) Wali Ashraf of Savar Model Police Station filed the other case under section 304(a), 337, 338 and 348 of the Penal Code 1860 for loss of lives and damages.

Dr. Shahdeen Malik, lawyer and director of BRAC University’s School of Law told the Dhaka Tribune, “There is no adequate remedy under any specific law for such disaster unless the cases are filed under equity.” He added, “The sections under which the cases have been filed are unlikely to provide any relief or compensation to the victims, because the fine imposed by a court as a punishment goes to official exchequer, that is, only to the government.” He clarified that the government “may distribute the fine to the victims, but the victims are not eligible to claim any compensation,” since the specific sections under which the cases were filed only deal with punishment or fines.

According to Section 12 of the Building Construction Act, perpetrators face “imprisonment which may extend to seven years or with fine not less than taka fifty thousand, or with both,” while according to the sections of the Penal Code, under which the case falls, perpetrators if found guilty may be imprisoned for up to a maximum of five years or fined, or both.

The building’s owner and proprietors of the readymade garment factories are accused of being responsible for the incident in Savar, which left at least 370 people dead, while approximately 2431 people were rescued from the site alive, at the time this report was filed.

Rights activists Khushi Kabir pointed out to the series of disasters in the RMG sector, starting with the collapse of Spectrum garments factory to the recent fire at Tazreen, all due to negligence, leaving workers in the industry at the mercy of factory management. She said, “along with punishment, steps to ensure compensation for the families of those who died, those disabled and for the trauma suffered by everyone is a must.”

In 2005, a building in Ashulia where the Spectrum garment factory was located also collapsed, killing sixty four people, while the devastating fire at Tazreen Fashion in November last year killed at least 110 workers.

Pointing to the involvement of the Savar upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) in the government’s probe-body to investigate the incident, anthropologist Rahnuma Ahmad observed, such disasters due to negligence would persist if the government fails to put an end to the existing “culture of impunity”.  She questions, “How could the UNO, who was responsible for giving ‘Risk free permission’ to Rana Plaza, be a member of the probe body?”

Following the collapse of the building, a special body was formed with the home ministry’s additional secretary Mainuddin Khandaker, the superintendent of police in Dhaka Habibur Rahman and the Savar UNO to investigate the cause of the building’s collapse, find if there was negligence on the part of authorities and ascertain the extent of damages and casualties.

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