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Stressing the need for implementation of the rulings on public interest litigation cases, the speakers said that it is the duty of the relevant government officials or departments to ensure that these verdicts are implemented. Also, if judges of the lower courts are trained in public interest litigations, many cases can be resolved at a local level. This will lessen the pressure on the higher courts.

They said that the implementation of rulings in public interest litigation cases will ensure democratic continuity and citizens’ fundamental rights.

Another public interest litigation case was filed to uphold the land rights of the Marmas. And their rights were upheld in that case. Public interest litigation cases are useful for the Dalits, the backward communities and those deprived of rights

Chairing the roundtable meet, human rights leader and former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal said the main responsibility of protecting public interests lies with the state. If the law is violated, the people approach the state. A lot of problems can be resolved and people’s lives can be easier if there is a smooth and fair resolution of cases.

She said, just as it is easy to file a public litigation case in a democratic society, it is just as difficult to file such a case where democracy is shaky and there is a culture of compromise.

Pointing to the importance of public interest litigation cases in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Chakma Circle chief Raja Devasish Roy said that before 2008, the court functioning in Chittagong Hill Tracts was different. Then it was changed by means of a public interest litigation case.

Lawyers and development agencies take up public interest litigation cases to protect various rights and address the government’s reluctance to enforce the law
Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of BELA)

He said that another public interest litigation case was filed to uphold the land rights of the Marmas. And their rights were upheld in that case. Public interest litigation cases are useful for the Dalits, the backward communities and those deprived of rights.

Chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Rizwana Hasan said, “Public interest litigation cases are filed for women’s rights, protection of hills, halting stone extraction, protecting wildlife, preventing corruption, upholding land rights and ensuring the rights of children, the disabled and so on. We go to the highest court with public interest litigation cases. The court is our last resort.”

She went on to say injured parties, lawyers and development agencies take up public interest litigation cases to protect various rights and address the government’s reluctance to enforce the law.

Till the 90's in the country, public interest litigation was hardly recognised as an established legal system. It was through a case filed by BELA’s Mohiuddin Faruk in 1997 concerning the Flood Action Plan in Tangail, that public interest litigation found firmer legal footing

ALRD executive director Shamsul Huda said public interest litigation cases are important tools to establish the rule of law and protect public interests. He said that the rule of law and public interest litigation cases were strongly linked. It was the responsibility of the state to ensure people’s rights. He said public interest cases were being settled, but not implemented in many instances. Those in charge of the implementation are not doing so. Public interest litigation needs constant attention at every step.

Referring to the shortcomings in the implementation of the law, Shamsul Huda said, “The major problems and shortcomings lie with those who are in charge of implementing the law, keeping it alive and effective. Unless this is addressed, we will continue to lag behind in strengthening the rule of law.”

Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum presented the opening address at the roundtable and the keynote was presented by lawyer Abu Obaidur Rahman.

Abu Obaidur Rahman said public interest litigation directly and indirectly helps the government.

He said there was a general perception that public interest litigation went against the government and obstructed the government from implementing its work and decisions. But reality was quite the opposite.

He said public interest litigation guides persons to carry out the responsibilities which they may have been shirking. Highlighting the history of public interest litigation in the country, Abu Obaidur Rahman said till the 90's in the country, public interest litigation was hardly recognised as an established legal system. It was through a case filed by BELA’s Mohiuddin Faruk in 1997 concerning the Flood Action Plan in Tangail, that public interest litigation found firmer legal footing.

President of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, Manzil Morshed, said rulings are passed on public interest litigation cases. Some of the rulings are implemented and some are not. More attention must be paid to the implementation of verdicts in public interest litigation cases.

Senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, ZI Khan Panna, said that the rule of law and public interest litigation are complementary. Public interest litigation is required to ensure complete rule of law.

The roundtable meeting was moderated by Prothom Alo associate editor Firoz Choudhury.

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