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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 182
August 14, 2010

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Strengthen measures to enforce Court-Sponsored ADR

Tabassum Mokhduma

Bangladesh Law Commission in collaboration with the South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SAILS) organized a seminar on August 07, 2010 at the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry on “Enforcing Court-Sponsored Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Bangladesh: Need for Strengthening Legislative, Administrative and Institutional Measures” where the speakers urged to strengthen legislative, administrative and institutional measures to enforce court-sponsored ADR to speed up justice to people.

The Honourable Chief Justice Mr. Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim graced the occasion as Chief Guest while Chairman of the Law Commission Mr. Justice Mohammad Abdur Rashid presided over the event which was participated by a good number of judges, lawyers, teachers, journalists and NGO activists.

The Chief Guest said that in this sub-continent ADR has been a revolution for speedy trial. He further added that the Constitution of Bangladesh ensures justice but still there are so many pending cases because of which it is tough to ensure proper justice and ADR can play a big role here to speed up the dispute resolution and thus ensure peoples' right to justice. He said, “The lawyers should give more importance on the matter of the cases rather than taking up a case simply for earning quick money”. The Chief Justice further mentioned that the courts are already over-burdened with cases so to introduce change in the legal arena of the country he stressed the need for implementing ADR to facilitate people with better access to justice and relieve them of prolonged trial procedures. He also urged the judges, lawyers and the others concerned to discourage filing of cases that can be resolved through mediation and arbitration while ensuring justice.

The programme started with the welcome speech by Mr. S. C. Paul, Member, Law Commission who highlighted the point behind organizing this seminar followed by the presentation of the papers and open discussions.

A total of three research papers were presented at the seminar. Professor Dr. M Shah Alam, Member of the Law Commission presented the paper on “Enforcing Court-Sponsored Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Bangladesh: Need for Strengthening Legislative, Administrative and Institutional Measures” while Mr. Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, Chief Research Officer of the Law Commission presented the paper on “ADR in Criminal Justice: Plea Bargain as a Means to Expeditious Disposal of Criminal Cases in Bangladesh”. Ms. Sharmin Nigar, Senior Research Officer of the Law Commission presented the last paper of the seminar on “Activating the Village Court”.

Dr. Alam in his paper mentioned that Indian sub-continent has a very rich heritage of informal justice system traditionally known as 'shalish' in Bangladesh while 'panchayet' in India. This age-old informal justice system has acquired common characteristics as ADR by last few decades of worldwide positive effort to refurbish and reinforce it. He also suggested some effective recommendations like formation of a National Mediation Council, inclusion of compulsory course on ADR in universities and law colleges, application of court-sponsored ADR in not only in newly admitted cases but also in old pending cases etc. Mr. Akhtaruzzaman in his paper discussed plea bargaining and came up with the idea of allowing only sentence bargaining rather than charge bargaining while Ms. Nigar in her paper mentioned that building awareness among the masses about the village court can play a good role in strengthening village court in Bangladesh.

The discussants of the seminar were Dr. Uttom Kumar Das, Deputy Director, SAILS; Advocate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, President, Chittagong Bar Council; Mr. Enamul Hoque Bhuiyan, Metropolitan Sessions Judges (in-charge); Mr. Mohammad Mahabubur Rahman, Metropolitan Magistrate, Chittagong; Mr. Md. Abdul Quddus, District & Sessions Judge, Chittagong and Professor Md. Zakir Hossain, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Chittagong (CU).

The discussants and the participants raised suggestions of establishing mediation and arbitration centers in each district, establishing separate institutes to train the individuals on mediation preferably outside Dhaka to ensure decentralization, introducing compulsory mediation before the trial to lessen the alarming number of cases in court, setting up separate fund for running village court, introducing incentives for mediators etc.

Many people are tending to take up law into their own hands, commit crimes or go for self-destructive activities like suicide due to frustration over prolonged procedures of formal trial, added the Justice Rashid. He hoped that this seminar will help the Law Commission to a great extent to come up with more concrete solution to ensure enforcement of court-sponsored ADR.

The writer is a student of LLM, University of Chittagong.


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