BLAST vs. Bangladesh and others [‘Chittagong Hill Cutting’ Case]

Writ Petition No. 5663 of 2000

High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Facts:
BLAST filed a writ petition challenging the alleged unplanned, unauthorized and indiscriminate cutting of hills in different parts of Chittagong City and also impugning Section 3C of the Building Construction Act, 1952 (BCA) as amended in 1990. Section 3C of the BCA empowered the authorized officer to accord approval for cutting and razing hills subject to terms and conditions as he deemed fit with the order to remain valid for one year subject to withdrawal by the Government. Under the purported authority of Section 3C of the BCA, the authorized officer permitted Nasirabad Properties Ltd. to raze hills for a period of one year, with further extensions, but the authorized officer withheld further permissions before the leveling of the demolished hills was completed. There was no initiative from the Government to level the damaged hills and clean the silted area, further contributing to the environmental degradation of the area and resulting in serious apprehensions of a landslide. The local people made various appeals to the authorities without any response.

Argument:
The petitioners argued that everyone has the right to live in an environment that permits quality of life and well being, and the degradation of the environment by cutting and razing of the hills pursuant to Section 3C and Section 3D of the BCA is violative of such rights. They also argued that the respondents had failed to perform their statutory obligations under the Environmental Conservation Act, 1995 and Rules 1997.

The petitioners later applied for submission of particulars regarding the total number of hills at present and in 1971, the numbers cut down or damaged with or without administrative permission, the measures taken for leveling of the damaged hills, the minimum hilly area required for sound environment and clarification about the clearance certificate, which was allowed on 07.04.2002.

Order
: The High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 15.07.2002 on the respondents directing to show cause why Section 3C of the Building Construction Act, 1952 should not be declared to be without any lawful authority and of no legal effect and why the respondents should not be directed to level and clear the demolished hills.

The Court later directed the respondents to submit a report regarding the information sought by the petitioners. On their failure to do so, the Court directed them to show cause to why action should not be taken against them for their non-compliance with the Court’s order. Further, on 04.08.2002, the Court ordered the appearance in person of the respondents to explain their non-compliance.

Laws Cited:
Constitution, Article 31; Building Construction Act, 1952; Environmental Conservation Act, 1995 and Rules 1997

Status: Pending hearing

 

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