Delayed investigations, absent witnesses
Cases lie unresolved for years at the Dhaka environmental court. For example, around 17 years ago, on 24 July 2004, the police had arrested two persons in possession of contraband polythene. Two years after the cases was filed, charges were finally framed against these two persons, Md Shahin and Asadul. Not one of the 17 witnesses in the case have been brought forward.
Ten years ago on 12 February 2011, the department of environment seized 5 bulldozers for sand being lifted and land on the banks being encroached along the river Buriganga on the west of Basila bridge of Hazaribagh in the capital city. The department filed a case against unidentified persons in this regard. And till date it has not submitted any investigative report in this regard to the court.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, the environment department’s director (law) Khandakar Md Fazlul Huq told Prothom Alo that the main problem of the environmental court is that the investigation report was not submitted in time. Previously this would take a lot of time, but now initiative had been taken for departmental investigations and timely submission of reports.
The situation is the same at Chattogram’s environmental court. A case filed in 2009 for catching ‘jatka’ (not fully-grown fish) with ‘current’ nets from the sea in Cox’s Bazar is under trial at the Chattogram environment court. There are 12 witnesses in this case but not a single one has given deposition as yet. The court issues summons for the hearing, but they cannot be located. Of the two accused in the case, Md Ali is on bail and Md Selim has been absconding from the beginning.
Fines rather than imprisonment
According to records of the Dhaka environment court, there are few imprisonments under the environment protection act. In most cases the court imposes a fine on the accused. Of the 200 cases disposed of over the past 10 years, the court has imposed fines of various sums on the accused persons. In 28 cases the accused have been acquitted. In 24 cases the accused has been released.
Even the environment department’s mobile courts impose more fines than rather than imprisonment sentences. Over the past 5 years, only 166 sentences for imprisonment were passed by 4,440 mobile court cases. The fines were imposed for various offences involving banned polythene, illegal brick kilns, black smoke emissions, sound pollution, hill demolishing, landfills and more.