Our Right to Information: Law and Reality in Bangladesh

Our Right to Information: Law and Reality

1.

Section 13(3) of the Act encompassed the jurisdiction of the civil court in respect of the information commission. The commission can issue summons to anyone to enforce the attendance of persons and also can compel to produce oral and written documents or other things as required by the information seeker or the commission itself.

Moreover, it can examine and inspect the information provided to information seeker or to the commission. The veracity of the information may be subject to the inspection of the commission.

The commission can receive evidence on affidavit, bring any information from any office, issue summons for witnesses or documents etc to give effect to the Act.

In addition to the above, the commission can take any steps as per rules for carrying out the purpose of the Act. Therefore, the powers vested to it are wide considering the scope and jurisdiction of the commission.

The functions of the information commission were elaborated in section section 13(5) of the Act. In this section, the commission has got a colossal of scopes to deliver for providing the right to information. In a nutshell, it can do whatever need to ensure people’s right to know in the country.

However, formation of the commission is another area which should be free and fair and in a nonpartisan manner. To form an independent and effective information commission, the law prescribed for a selection committee constituting five members including a judge of the Appellate Division nominated by the Chief Justice.

The cabinet secretary of the government is a member of that selection committee. Another fine tuning of the Act is the inclusion of political leaders in the appointing procedure of the (Chief) information commissioners. As per the Act, a member will be nominated from the ruling party and another from the opposition party in the parliament. Both of these party men will be nomination by the speaker of the parliament. The fifth member shall be from the profession of journalism having experience in this field.

Following the recommendations of the selection committee, the president shall appoint the chief information commission and other commission.

The post of CIC and other commissioners are equivalent to the post of the judge of the supreme court of Bangladesh.

Secretarial role will be played by the information ministry which is a dependency of the commission. To make the commission independent, it should have its own secretariat.

However, there is a clear path of financial independence of the commission which will be vested to the commission subject to law made in this regard. Financial independence is the major yardstick of an organization to evaluate its credibility.

All other procedures from seeking information to other issues related to right to information are mentioned in the Act. Therefore, this act is a comprehensive one towards acknowledgement of people’s right to information.

The commission has proved its upbeat stance for the protection and promotion of the right to information. It has been availing the telecom and ICT facilities to aware the people for their right to information. It is a proactive measure taking by the commission. It has already developed a comprehensive website which is up-to-date and rich. However there are some areas of improvement in the site as well.

Of late, the High Court has upheld the verdict of the Information Commission fining a government official to refuse to provide the information to an individual. Against the decision of the commission that particular officer filed a writ petition. But the HC has ruled that the officer is bound to furnish information to anybody within 20 days or within 30 days in particular cases after filing of the application as per the RTI Act. This is another achievement for the commission considering the colonial mindset towards peoples’ right.

So fast we can ensure the right to information, so even our path to democracy will be built.
* Our Right to Information: Law and Reality (2nd issue)
* Our Right to Information: Law and Reality (first issue)

2.
Human Rights at Frontier

Violation of human rights in the Indo-Bangla frontier areas is not a new trend which in many times has affected the bilateral relations between these two neighbors. Violation of every norm which were to be followed in the border areas are challenged by the BSF.
Human rights of the people of the eastern front have been trampled down by the security forces of Indian border and for long with impunity. Many international human rights watch bodies have criticized the security forces of the Indian side for their elongated malpractice throughout the whole world’s fifth longest border.

It is unfortunate for us as we (Bangladesh and India) share the world’s bloodiest border as opined by international observer and human rights watch group around the world. However, we (Bangladesh) are smug enough to have a warm bilateral relation between these two tested friends.

Very recently, a Bangladeshi was killed by the BSF in the Dinajpur district. Many such incidents can be cited where killing followed by torture and inhuman treatment to the detainees. The border force of Bangladesh has always protested those incidents and the counterpart as usual has expressed their regret for those incidents as well. And what is most unfortunate for us is the continuance of such incidents.
An article published on April 18 last years depicted the sorrowful story of this border. It also said that the death toll between these two democracies dwarfed the number killed attempting to cross the inner-German border during the cold war. According to Human Rights Watch, India’s border force has killed almost 1,000 Bangladeshis over the past ten years. There exists always a tension through the four thousand kilometers border areas.
More than one year has elapsed since we have lost Felani. But killing and torture is still a reality. Almost all the international human rights watch bodies and even the people of India are for the neutral investigation of those incidents and are advocating to bring those perpetrators to justice. Both the governments should undertake a speedy, fair, and transparent criminal investigation into fresh allegations of killings, torture, and other abuses by the Border Security Force (BSF) at the border with Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch World Report: Bangladesh Perspective

The human rights world report criticized the government of Bangladesh for its failure to protect human rights of the people which is also a deviation from its significant parliamentary mandate by the election of 2008. Violation of human rights continues with impunity. The report criticized RAB for alleged extrajudicial killings. The government instead of prosecuting members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), who engage in extrajudicial killings, the home minister chose to deny that such violations occur, even in cases where internal ministry investigations found evidence of wrongdoing. In addition to this, some other law enforcing agencies are being involved in new form of torture, arbitrary arrest, and enforced disappearances.

The government in 2011 tightened controls over civil society organizations by prosecuting labor union leaders and delaying foreign grants to NGOs.

The report alleged that International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 is not performing its role duly. It claimed that the ICT still falls short of some international standards. The definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide did not conform to international standards and the government failed to amend the law to ensure due process.

Violence against women and children are continuing unabated. Discrimination still persists to them under personal law. Domestic violence is a threat to the women folk of the country. The laws and rules are not implemented properly.

The Bangladeshi government has failed to introduce minimum protection measures for the migrant workers abroad during training or recruitment. They are violated in and are denied from their minimum human rights.

The report urges the government to carry out proper investigation and to uphold the human right.

Right to Privacy and Delay in ‘Persona’ Investigation

When a customer accused Persona for setting CC camera in service area of the beauty parlor, it rang alarm bell. Although setting CC camera has become a common practice in superstore and big shops, there is hardly a piece of law regulating the process. As a result, threat to privacy remains a major concern. It is equally alarming that Persona firstly mistreated the complainant and later made every attempt to resist the process of investigation. Though it has been state in the Article 27 of the constitution, “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”; influential quarters have helped Persona escaping justice so far.

An exclusive attempt made by banglanews24.com revealed an unprecedented delay in completing the investigation process. Even though it was ordered to complete the investigation by 3 days, there is little sign of submission of the investigation report even after 2 and half months.

Following the row over alleged breach of privacy, the High Court ordered the authorities concerned of all beauty parlors across the country to uninstall close-circuit (CC) cameras from their premises. An HC bench comprising Justice Farid Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Hasan Arif passed the orders on a writ petition filed over the incident of taking video footage of a lady customer of Persona Beauty Parlor.

Information Commission in UK is responsible for regulating capture of images for security purposes. There, all CCTV controllers are obliged to register with the Information Commissioner in order to make sure that they are operating in compliance with the provisions of the Date Protection Act. In absence of a law and regulation, it is hard to regulate business operating high-tech instruments for security purposes in Bangladesh.

Moreover, consumers are frequently ignored in the country. When the incident took place and the complainant along with her husband wanted to examine the footage, authority of the Persona refrained from cooperating complainant. Rather, they allegedly destroyed evidences related to the incident. Although Consumer Rights Protection Act (CRPA) was enacted in order to protect consumers, it offers little remedies for consumers.

To recapitulate, Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh says in Article 31 that no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law. Therefore, right to privacy needs to be taken seriously and offences related to violation of privacy rights must be dealt promptly. Completing the investigation of Persona would help perpetrators bring to book.

3.
12th Human Rights Summer School

The annual program of the Human Rights Summer School organized by The Empowerment through Law of the Common People (ELCOP) has begun from December 19 in the PROSHIKA centre of Koitta, Manikgonj. ELCOP has been organizing this program since 2000 which is unique and first of its kind. Though this program was limited for the participants from the country, but presenty, many students, researchers, professors, lawyers from abroad are particpating in this two weeklong program. Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Barrister Shafique Ahmed, Chairman of Law Commission, Professor Dr. Shah Alam, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman of University Grants Commission, Professor A.K. Azad Chowdhury and many other dignitaries are expected to grace the workshop.

Reference:
1. banglanews24.com
http://www.banglanews24.com/English/detailsnews.php?nssl=0bf5bbf3842e8c8742a4d76148e0ef89&nttl=2012022434081&toppos=6
2. Human Rights Watch
http://www.hrw.org/en/world-report-2011/bangladesh)
3. Reflections on Torture: denial or indifference? by Saira Rahman Khan
4. The Daily Sun, HC summons 5 cops for torturing Tajuddin’s grandson http://www.daily-sun.com/index.php?view=details&archiev=yes&arch_date=13-02-2012&type=daily-sun-news&pub_no=54&menu_id=1&news_type_id=1&news_id=10355
27 Feb 2012 08:00:06 PM Monday
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Dil Wala Dukhda – Alam Lohar | Punjabi Folk Songs | Nupur Audio

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Chetar chithi utha ke meet mera 14:11
Wajan mariyan bulaya 24:00
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Sehti te ranjhe di mulaqat 39:53

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