Nine years ago, on April 24, 2013, a terrible humanitarian catastrophe occurred at Rana Plaza in Savar, near Dhaka. The eight-story commercial building, which housed the factory illegally, collapsed. One thousand 134 people were killed. More than two thousand were injured. All of them were garment workers. Two cases were registered under the Murder and Building Construction Act. None of this has made much progress. Although testimony has started in the murder case, there is a stay order in other cases.
The prosecution has blamed the defendants for the delay in the proceedings. However, the defense lawyers said that the prosecution should start the proceedings of the case by resolving the stay order quickly.
About six years ago, the trial court set the date for the testimony in these two cases. Testimony in the murder case has started about five and a half years after the charges were framed. On the other hand, the case of building construction law filed in the same case has been stayed by the order of the high court. Testimony did not begin even six years after the case was adjourned.
According to court sources, eight accused went to the high court challenging the validity of the murder case. The application of seven of them was disposed of. Another accused in the case, Haji Mohammad Ali, a former commissioner of Savar Municipality’s Ward 7, has filed a petition seeking stay of the case. The plaintiff in the case against the other accused on January 31 this year, the then Sub-Inspector (SI) of Savar Police Station Wali Ashraf testified in court. Defendants’ lawyers ended cross-examination on his testimony on April 17. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 29.
On the other hand, in the case of Building Construction Act, some accused applied for revision in the District and Sessions Judge’s Court. Among them, the accused Phantom Apparels Limited Chairman Muhammad Aminul Islam was acquitted by the court. Another accused in the case, the former mayor of Savar municipality. On November 8, the High Court adjourned the case for one year on behalf of Refatullah. The prosecution could not start taking evidence even after six years of framing the case as the judicial proceedings of the case were suspended in the High Court.
Regarding the murder case, state counsel for the Dhaka District and Sessions Judge’s Court Bimal Samaddar told Jago News that after the charges were framed, eight accused went to the high court and applied for stay of the case. The application of seven of them has been disposed off. The trial of Haji Mohammad Ali, a former commissioner of Savar Municipality’s Ward 8, is still pending. Testimony in the case against the other accused started on January 31. Defendant’s lawyers are delaying the judicial proceedings of the case. We are sincerely trying to resolve the issue expeditiously. Hopefully, the judicial process of the case can be completed soon.
Regarding the case under the Building Construction Act, state counsel Anwarul Kabir Babul said that some of the accused had filed a revision challenging the validity of the charge sheet. Among them, the court rejected the revision application of Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Web Bottoms Limited and Mahbubur Rahman, a former assistant engineer. On the other hand, the chairman of Phantom Apparels Limited Muhammad Aminul Islam was granted revision and he was released. The accused in the case, the former mayor of Savar municipality. On November 8, the High Court adjourned the case for one year on behalf of Refatullah. Testimony could not be started as the judicial proceedings of the case were suspended in the High Court. Judicial proceedings of the case are being delayed due to the defendants. If the High Court withdraws the stay order, we can start taking evidence in this case.
Defendant’s lawyer Farooq Ahmed said charges had been framed about two years ago in two cases under the Murder and Building Construction Act in connection with the Rana Plaza collapse. Some of the accused have filed writ petitions in the high court challenging the validity of the case. Testimony in the murder case has started about five and a half years after the charges were framed. Testimony did not start as there was a stay order in favor of one of the accused in the building construction law case. All except the building owner Sohail Rana are out on bail in the case. The prosecution should immediately settle the case and start proceedings.
The Rana Plaza building in Savar collapsed on April 24, 2013 at around 9 am. Five and a half thousand garment workers were crushed under it. The bodies of 1,137 people were recovered in that incident. About two thousand workers were injured and crippled. Two thousand 438 people were rescued alive from under the rubble.
In that incident, Sub-Inspector (SI) of Savar Police Station Wali Ashraf filed a case of ‘negligence and culpable homicide’ in the construction of the building.
On April 26, 2015, CID Assistant Superintendent of Police Vijayakrishna filed a chargesheet against 41 people, including Kar Bhavan owner Sohail Rana. 594 people were called as witnesses in the case. Among the 41 accused in the case, building owner Sohail Rana’s father Abdul Khaleq, Abu Bakkar Siddique and Abul Hossain died. Excluding the three, the number of accused in the murder case is now 36.
On July 17, 2016, Dhaka District and Sessions Judge SM Quddus Zaman framed charges against the accused. The plaintiff in the case, the then Sub-Inspector (SI) of Savar Police Station Wali Ashraf, testified in the court on January 31 this year. On April 17, the defense lawyers completed the cross-examination of his testimony. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 29.
Case under Building Construction Act
In the same incident, the building construction did not comply with the law, said the officer in charge of RAJUK. Helal Uddin filed another case at Savar police station on the same day. On April 26, 2015, CID Assistant Superintendent of Police Vijayakrishna filed a chargesheet against 18 people, including Sohail Rana, owner of Kar Bhaban. 130 people were called as witnesses in the case.
On June 14, 2016, Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate Mostafizur Rahman framed charges against the accused. The court is currently scheduled to testify in the case. No one has testified since the allegations were made.
Notable accused in the two cases are: Rana Plaza owner Sohail Rana, his mother Morzina Begum, former commissioner of ward 7 of Savar municipality Haji Mohammad Ali, Khulna University assistant professor (architecture discipline) ATM Masud Reza, engineer Sajjad Hossain, former mayor of Savar municipality. Md. Refatullah, former Chief Executive Officer of Savar Municipality Uttam Kumar Roy, Executive Engineer Rafiqul Islam, Former Assistant Engineer Mahbubur Rahman, Former Deputy Assistant Engineer Rakibul Hasan Russell, Former Town Planner of Savar Municipality Farzana Islam, License Inspector Md. Abdul Mottalib, former secretary of the municipality Morzina Khan, former secretary. Abul Bashar, Phantom Apparels Limited Chairman Muhammad Aminul Islam, New Web Bottoms Limited MD Bazlus Samad and Ether Tex Limited Chairman Md. Anisur Rahman.
Runner sentenced to three years in prison
Meanwhile, Rana, who fled after the building collapsed, was arrested from Jessore a few days later. He has been in jail ever since. Several cases were filed against Rana after his arrest. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) also filed a case against him for not submitting the assets account.
Judge KM Imrul Kayes of Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-6 sentenced Sohail Rana to three years in prison on August 29, 2016 in that case. He was also sentenced to three months imprisonment for non-payment of a fine of Tk 50,000.