ASK, BLAST and others vs. Bangladesh and others

ASK, BLAST and others vs. Bangladesh and others [‘Tazreen Garments’ Case]
Writ Petition No. 15693 of 2012
High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Facts: On 24.11.12, more than 110 people died due to a fire breaking out at the Tazreen Fashion Limited a company which is part of the Toba group, located at Nisuchintapur, Ashulia, Dhaka at about 6pm. Following this incident, Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), a renowned legal service NGO commenced an investigation with a view to finding out the actual cause(s) of the fire in order to be able to assist the process of holding those responsible accountable within the justice system. The investigation included a visit to the factory and interviews of the victims, their family members, witnesses, concerned police officers and fire station officials. The report concluded that the causes behind this tragedy include:
1.    There were only three narrow staircases for the workers to use to access the ground floor
2.    Other than these regularly use staircases, there were no emergency exits or stairways, or any form of automated fire defense systems, and no emergency fire doors.
3.    There were insufficient fire defense equipment - most of them were unused and most workers were unable to use this equipment
4.    Insufficient water sources inside or outside of the factory
5.    The ground floors were being using as a storage facility (unplanned)
6.    Two high voltage electricity transformers were placed on the ground floor, which raises particular risks.
7.    There was only one main exit/entrance on the ground-floor, which was not suitably sized for the number of employees and the size of the building

, along with ASK, BRAC and NijeraKori, filed a writ petition against the failure of the respondents to ensure effective enforcement of applicable laws on work-place safety in particular regarding prevention of deaths and injuries of workers from fire in garments manufacturing factories.
Arguments: The petitioners argued that the concerned garments factory did not maintain any proper fire safety measures as mentioned in Fire Service Ordinance 1959, the Bangladesh Labour Code 2006 and the Factories Act, 1965. They also argued that the concerned government authorities failed to perform their service duties, and that the failure of both were the main causes behind this accident. They prayed that effective enforcement of applicable laws on workplace safety be ensured, with a view to preventing any future deaths and injuries of workers from fire. The petitioners also stated that these accidents violate the Constitutional rights of workers as guaranteed in Articles 11, 14, 15, 21, 27, 31 and 32 of the Constitution.

Order: On 26th November, 2012the Honorable Justices of High Court Division of Bangladesh Supreme Court issued a Rule Nisi in response to the said Writ Petition as mentioned below:
1. Issued Rule calling upon the respondents to show cause within four weeks as to why they should not be directed to prosecute and punish people responsible for the fire.

2. Directed BGMEA to submit report within two months including a list of garment factories across the country, and a report on whether the authorities of the factories comply with the relevant laws to run those, and what steps they have taken to save the workers from fires.

3. Directed the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) to suggest names of some eminent per-sons within 10 days for constituting a probe committee into this incident.

4. Directed the government to explain what steps it has taken to implement the HC directives issued in 2001 in Writ Petition no. 6070/1997 to ensure safety and security of garment workers and to form an inspection committee to monitor whether the garments authorities abide by the relevant laws in running their factories.

5. Directed authorities of Tuba Groups and Tazreen Fashions Ltd, to state in detail what steps have been taken regarding compensations for the workers killed and the injured, and what measures they have taken to ensure treatment of the injured staffers.

Law cited: Articles 11, 14, 15, 21, 27, 31 and 32 of the Constitution, Bangladesh Labour Code, 2006, Fire Service Ordinance 1959, Factories Act 1965.

Status: Rule-Nisi delivered, not yet reported.

ORDER- (Rule Nisi), dated: 26 November, 2012

BLAST Writers Club on the Tazreen Garments Fire - Prothom Alo, 23 October 2012


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