Md. Kamal Hossain and others vs. Bangladesh and others [‘Spectrum Sweater Factory Collapse’ Case]

Writ Petition No. 3566 of 2005

High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Facts:
The factory building of Spectrum Sweater Industries Ltd., a nine storied building at Palashbari, Savar, collapsed leaving 69 workers dead and 89 injured. Four injured workers and nine human rights organisations, including BLAST, working collaboratively as the Sramik Nirapatta Forum filed the writ petition impugning the failure of the concerned authorities to discharge their statutory duties and responsibilities relating to building construction, labour safety and welfare.

Argument:
The petitioners argued that the failure of the respondents to discharge their statutory obligations to ensure compliance with construction laws, to undertake adequate and effective rescue efforts, to investigate and identify the reasons for collapse, or to initiate legal action against the employers for negligence and non-observance of statutory obligation including workers’ safety, and their failure to compensate and rehabilitate the victims and bereaved families, constituted violations of the fundamental rights to equal protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law and to life as guaranteed under Articles 27, 31 and 32 of the Constitution. The petitioners also argued that these rights should be read together with the fundamental principles of state policy including the responsibility of the state to free all persons from exploitation, to provide social security and to ensure respect for human dignity and the constitutional obligation of every citizen to abide by the Constitution and other laws in spheres of public life as enshrined in Articles 11, 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.

Order: On 25.05.2005 the High Court issued a Rule Nisi upon the respondents to show cause as to why they should not be directed to take necessary measures and legal actions to carry out and conduct an effective public inquiry by establishing a commission to identify the reasons for the collapse and persons and agencies responsible and to make recommendations to prevent any such disaster in future and to secure payment of adequate compensation and arrange for rehabilitation in favour of the victims of the said collapse. The Court also directed certain respondents to submit reports before the Court on the issues of legality of the construction of the building, ownership of the land and safety conditions of the buildings.

Laws cited:
Constitution, Articles 11, 14, 15, 21, 27, 31 and 32, The Penal Code, 1860; The Fatal Accidents Act, 1855; The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923; The Employers Liability Act, 1938; The Factories Act, 1965; The Factories Rules, 1979; The Employment of Labour (Standing Orders) Act, 1965; The Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1965; The Bangladesh Environment Conversation Act, 1995 and Rules 1997; Town Improvement Act, 1953; The Building Construction Act, 1952 and Rules 1996; The Savar Cantonment Act, 1924; The Savar Cantonment Building Bye-laws, 1982

Status: Amongst the respondents only BGMEA submitted a report. The case is now pending for hearing. The petitioners have in 2010 served the respondents with a contempt notice.

 

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