Jails in Bangladesh often hold people who are under trial for terms far longer than the maximum term to which they could be sentenced. BLAST, in cooperation with the Prison Authorities and the German Technical Corporation (GTZ), is currently providing services through paralegals working in one district, Bogra, to expedite the release of prisoners, particularly women, children and vulnerable persons. Paralegals conduct interviews and manage paperwork to help prisoners who are held in jail beyond the terms of their sentences or who have been awaiting hearings for minor offenses for long periods of time.
Women and children who are victims of crimes of violence are often placed in “safe custody” by judges in Bangladesh, under Section 31 of the Nari-o-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000 (the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act) . Although this provision expressly prohibits in the use of jail for this purpose, women and girls continue to be held in jails in the name of ‘safe custody’ . BLAST has intervened in the lower courts to secure the release of women and children placed in jail in “safe custody” and has also challenged the practice of safe custody in a writ petition before the High Court.
Migrants who are caught violating immigration laws sometimes remain in jail long after the expiration of their sentences, both in Bangladesh and abroad. This is generally due to the failure of the migrants’ countries of origin to issue them with travel documents. BLAST has been involved in efforts to release ‘over-stayer’ foreign prisoners in Bangladesh jails and Bangladeshi prisoners in foreign jails that is those who remain incarcerated despite their sentences having expired. BLAST has intervened in a case pending for hearing in the High Court in which it has sought the release and repatriation of Bangladesh adults and children held in jails in West Bengal, India despite their sentences having expired. BLAST also works with its counter parts in neighbouring countries, such as the Legal Aid Society of West Bengal (LASWEB) to ensure that Bangladeshi prisoners in West Bengal, India and Indian prisoners in Bangladesh receive legal aid.
BLAST has also challenged mass arrests and arbitrary arrests by police officers. In one case, BLAST has challenged the detention of 187 rickshaw pullers without conducting a prompt investigation as required under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Public Safety Act, 2000, under which the rickshaw pullers were arrested. The detainees were released on bail and the case is pending for hearing. It has also regularly taken up illegal detentions of poor and marginalized individuals through filing habeas corpus petitions.
In another case, filed together with ASK and others, BLAST challenged mass arrests carried out under Section 86 of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance, and also challenged the constitutionality of this provision.
Public Interest Litigation
- Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust vs. Bangladesh and others [Child Detention under SPA Case]
Writ Petition No. 4191 of 1998
4 BLC (1999) 600
- Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust vs. Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and others [Safe Custody Case]
Writ Petition No. 1157 of 1997
- BLAST and others vs. Bangladesh and others [Rickshaw Pullers' Arrest Case]
Writ Petition No. 6767 of 2001
- BLAST vs. Bangladesh and others [Foreign Prisoners in Dhaka Jail Case]
Writ Petition No. 6353 of 2003
- BLAST and ASK vs. Bangladesh and others [Children in Fetters Case]
Writ Petition No. 1676 of 2003
- Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust vs. Bangladesh and others [Indian Prisoners Case]
Writ Petition No. 224 of 2004
- ASK, BLAST and others vs. Bangladesh and others [Mass Arrest Case]
Writ Petition No. 2192 of 2004
- Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust vs. Bangladesh and others [Burmese Prisoners Case]
Writ Petition No. 1068 of 2006
- ASK and BLAST vs. Bangladesh and others [Juveniles in Jail Case]
Writ Petition No. 6373 of 2007
- Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust vs. Bangladesh [Bangladeshi Prisoners in India Case]
Writ Petition No. 1715 of 2010