Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
Since 1996, BLAST has filed 82 public interest litigation petitions in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. These petitions have resulted in judicial orders for government action to comply with statutory duties, and have led to expanded interpretations of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Bangladesh. Significant PIL petitions include: challenging arbitrary arrests and unreasonable police remand and obtaining guidelines to safeguard persons under arrest or in police custody; challenging delays in trials of under-trial prisoners; challenging incarceration of children in prisons; challenging continued detention of foreigners who have overstayed their sentence in prisons; preventing forced eviction and displacement and securing alternative rehabilitation of slum dwellers; securing consumer safety and health rights; seeking protection of workers’ rights for safety in the workplace; challenging gender discrimination in public employment; challenging the failure of state authorities to ensure safety and security of women through taking action against extra-judicial penalties by informal village tribunals; obtaining directions to ensure effective action against government servants for sexual harassment; ensuring effective and participatory local government by challenging the establishment of bodies to be controlled by central government; ensuring enforcement of safety standards in public transport; ensuring accountability of public representatives by referring their payment of dues to public bodies; and directions for the establishment of courts and furthering the separation of the judiciary from the executive in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
BLAST’s legislative advocacy activities have helped to facilitate changes in Bangladesh’s laws. Significant achievements include amendments to labour laws and to the Legal Aid Act, 2000. Changes to the labour laws lengthened the duration of maternity leave, increased minimum wages, mandated the provision of appointment letters to workers, and facilitated punishment for sexual harassment in the workplace. Changes to the Legal Services Act incorporated honorariums for arbitrators and mediators, increased honorariums for panel lawyers, and provided for legal aid committees at the Upazilla and Thana level. BLAST was also a key member of the drafting committee of the Coalition of Voices against Domestic Violence which resulted in the draft Domestic Violence (Protecion and Prevention) Bill.
BLAST collaborates with partners among national human rights or legal services organisations to file PIL petitions. BLAST also organizes seminars about public interest litigation and advocacy and holds issue-based meetings with NGO representatives, judges, lawyers and the media. BLAST has forged regional links with prisoner’s rights organizations in Nepal, Pakistan and India to facilitate the repatriation of foreign nationals in Bangladeshi prisons and Bangladeshi nationals in foreign prisons.