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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: 254
January 28, 2012

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Human Rights Monitor

Corporate violation of human rights

Syeda Nasrin

Photo: filipspagnoli.wordpress

Corporate violation of human rights is a new mode of human rights grabbing. It may be new to listen about the corporate violation of human rights. Speaking about “violation of human rights” many common and practical scenery becomes apparent before us. But curiosity lies between “corporate violation” and “violation of human rights”. The common element between these two lines is violation. There are certain other common elements between these two lines which can not be viewed in open eyes. These are inherent and stand behind the in-built limitation of corporate activities.

Corporate activities means and includes the internal or external or both external and internal activities of public or private limited or unlimited companies, firms, enterprises, business institutions, organizations etc. Though corporations are valued as legal person under law and all functions and actions of corporations are also evaluated as having different and distinctive identity and recognition under law, but this is the shadow face. There hides ever truth behind this shade which is the mere visible veil of corporations. Actually corporations are nothing more than abstracts which have no live themselves though their existence is discernible and real. Behind this abstract there acts one living element and that is human. Under the apparent shade of corporation there are obvious personals that conform corporate. Simultaneously, the aim targeting of which the functions and actions of corporations are moving that is also human. I construe you/he/she and you, he/she and I construe “we”.

Similar to this cycle behind the shadow door of corporations it is the corporatist, some persons among us violates our entitlements i.e human rights misusing the veil of corporations. Corporations cannot be held with criminal liabilities like capital punishment, imprisonment, deterrent etc. For any of the action undertaken by or for and on behalf of the corporations' only civil liabilities such as fine, penalty as compensation, damages etc can be imposed thereon irrespective of measuring the grave consequences of violation of human rights which are happened in due or undue course of action of the corporations and its personals. By this way maximum corporate killings were settled down only by giving some damages @money to the victim's family by the corporate authority.

This scenery is almost same in all over the world. Bangladesh is not an exception to that. When a labour died in an accident at the working side then corporate authority settled the dispute thereon only giving some monetary compensation and no criminal case is generally lodged or further preceded against them. Most alarmingly, worker's deaths caused in slow burn by the poison of chemical industries are mostly faced with no damages or compensation. No mandatory health insurance policy is awarded by the corporations to their workers. Even, no internal insurance or warranty policy is facilitated/offered to the workers.

One familiar feature is uniquely developed in our country which gets prompt acceptance by the corporations not only in our country but also all over the world. For stopping the protesting words of the labour most of the corporations facilitated certain amount of shares to the labour or workers union making them understood that they belong to the member i.e. owner group of the corporations. Hence, if they want to protest against authority that ultimately will be the protest against themselves.

But these certain amount of shares does never construe the substantial or major part of shares. Consequently, they cannot take part in decision making process of the corporations. Simultaneously, for seeking minority shareholder protection they must have 10% - 15% of total shares which they have not been given. As a result they cannot seek direct remedy from the court of law and they always stand at a vulnerable zone under threat that the corporate authority at any time casts out them from memberships of the company by a majority decision taking in a board resolution. This leads them to a position of “empty zone” having ownership in the corporation in name and fame but not in work. This unchecked horizon of corporations has recently been controlled by “CSR” (Corporate Social Responsibility), but this is still in the elementary stage. Still now CSR is considered as an endowment, charity or generosity of the corporations. This has not been undertaken as “responsibility” as to duty which the corporations is bound under law to obey. CSR cannot prevent corporations from e-stealing (electronic stealing).

When a natural person steals something of others he/she can be held liable for theft with penalty or imprisonment or both, but under e-stealing no such liability directly accrues to the person committing theft. There may be arose bare liability and by that scope most of them got escape.

The recent share market occurrence can be taken as a perfect example to this effect. This is evident that money has been taken away from share market through and by the corporations i.e. bank, public limited companies, broker house etc but no one can be held with directly liability because there is no hard copy of evidence. This kind of “soft stealing” does not leave any hard copy evidence. Culprits are well aware about this fact and acted under the veil of corporations. Besides, this the threat of corporate pollution posed to our environment and life is a matter of great concern today. Mere development of CSR is not enough for securing our rights from the unruly grab of corporations. There needs some enforcing, regulatory and binding mechanisms, otherwise corporate action will be unhindered human rights grabber in upcoming future.

The writer is a Legal Associate at Hoque & Associates.





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