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February 29, 2004 

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Your Advocate

This week your advocate is M. Moazzam Husain of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. His professional interests include civil law, criminal law and constitutional law.

Q: My hushand Anil Barua was working in Bangladesh Navy Dockyard as skilled grade labourer I at Chittagong. One day being too tiered he was taking rest during working hour. The shift in-charge seeing him sitting, got angry and they exchanged hot words. Later on the matter was informed to higher authority. Thereafter he was forcefully taken to the hospital verbally declaring him as psyche patient and kept him confined in the navy hospital for 4/5 months till he became total insane and sacked him from the job making a so called medical board and declared him invalid for any kind of job. My husband is now living like a dead man. I have six children. I took a job as aya for livelihood. But they ruined his life for ever as well as our family. My questions are : A. Was the medical board legal in view of medical jurisprudence? B. Can we bring any legal action those doctors and officers for their heinous act? C. They are using psychiatrists and doctors as a tool of punishing employees, if they wish to do so, how this can be stopped? D. Now a days defense doctors are using their position as a tool to make normal people insane, is there any legal way to punish these people in civil or criminal law? Please show legal path.
Madhuri Datta, Housing Estate, Chittagong.

Your Advocate: Substance of your allegation is- your husband is a civilian and was working in the Navy dockyard Chittagong as a graded labourer. Following an altercation with his Shift-in-Charge penal actions were taken against him by the Officer-in-Charge who also felt insulted by your husband's conduct. The whole thing arose out of slang used against your husband by his Sift-in-Charge reacted to by him. Your husband for that matter any conscientious being may react to the slanging by anybody whoever he may be. Slang, colloquialism are something which gradually emerge into use in different local groups, professional and age groups, people of the same workplace etc. Not all slang expressions refer to insult or contempt. They are of everyday use in almost every corner of a country and true of the entire world. One living and working in such a situation must be tuned and needs not be hypersensitive to the prevailing slang-culture which is otherwise innocent. But that does not mean that intentional, well calculated and persistent slanging would not be taken exception of.

Now the problem that has arisen is- your husband is taken to the Navy hospital and is being treated as a mental patient. As it transpires in the decision leading to hospitalisation there are involvement of the higher officers of the Navy aided by the opinion of psychiatrist and a medical board. Nothing sounds or looks unusual or malicious. But it is your conviction as the wife of the patient that the whole thing has arisen out of a conspiracy by the people in the Navy who matter in the helm of affairs. Your further claim is your husband is a man of sound mind and physique. The hospitalisation, medical board etc. are arraigned drama designed to victimise your husband and your mind has traveled to the extent of belief that your husband is being tortured and administered with such drugs as to render him total insane so that he loses his eligibility for any other job in future. It is a serious thing to apprehend.

So far as I could gather from your words, I am afraid, I cannot fully share your concern. The people involved in the hospitalisation and treatment of your husband are responsible persons having their professional attainments and standing. They would be most unlikely to be prevailed upon by an ill-disposed Sift-in- Charge of the Dockyard. Logically and realistically your concern seems to be ill-founded.

Right or wrong you believe that your husband is caught in a vicious circle and his life is at stake. The anxious questions that cropped up from your troubled mind are whether the Medical Board is legal? If not, what are the legal measures that can be taken against those doctors and officers of the Navy? How this kind of vicious underhand practices to punish a malcontent be stopped? Is there any way to punish these people in civil and criminal law?

Well, if there is really any such vicious practices prevailing anywhere in the Navy or anywhere in the armed forces, so to say, can the persons perpetrate the crime with impunity? The simple answer is , 'No'. Discipline in our armed forces are regulated by stringent provisions of law. So far as the Navy is concerned, the Navy Ordinace,1961, provides for punishment of any person subject to the law, guilty of disgraceful conduct of a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind. Even officers may be punished for any conduct unbecoming of his position and the character expected of him. For civil offences committed by any member of the Navy the offender is triable by a naval tribunal and punishable with imprisonment of different terms including the capital punishment. Moreover, as in your case, that is, the offence of torture and malicious application of harmful drugs on a civilian, complaint may be made in a competent court of Magistrate for initiating a proceeding against the members of the Navy responsible for the alleged offences. This will not, however, take away your right to sue them for damages caused to the body and mind of your husband. Please have consultation with your family, friends and relatives and come to a well-considered decision as to whether you need to go for action. If so, take help of a good lawyer and proceed according as he advises.


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