IN THE eyes of the law, all are expected to be equal. However, it does not seem to be the case in the case of apparel industry owners. It becomes evident in the way the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters’ Association continues to defy and manipulate the law with regards to its illegal building in Hatirjheel. A six-month deadline given by the Supreme Court to dismantle the BGMEA Building expires today. However, the association at a press briefing on Saturday, as New Age reported on Sunday, expressed its desire to continue to use the building as their headquarters for year. The association has also filed a petition with the Supreme Court arguing that its needs more time as the construction of the new office will take one year. On October 3, 2010, the High Court Division in an order suo moto asked the government to explain why it should not be directed to demolish the building, built illegally on government land in complete breach of the laws for the conservation of environment and the wetlands. On April 3, 2011, the High Court ordered the government to demolish the building within 90 days and on June 2, 2016, the Appellate Division rejected the BGMEA’s appeal. Later, the appeals court rejected BGMEA’s review petition and gave six months till this September 11 to relocate its headquarters. Taking the legal history of this case into account, the petition appears to be founded on the impunity that the apparel unit owners have enjoyed for decades.
The BGMEA building has been in the way of the storm drainage system, one of the Hatirjheel integrated scheme’s prime objectives, to drain stormwater out of Paribagh, Karwan Bazar and Eskaton. The Begunbari canal stretching from Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue to Rampura, and beyond, is a vital drainage system to help mitigate flooding in the capital. The much-hyped Hatirjheel-Begunbari integrated development scheme was opened in January 2013 with the illegal building standing boldly right in the middle of the canal. Therefore, it was expected that the High Court order would be judiciously implemented, without exhausting legal process as a technique of delaying the demolition. This protracted process also visibilises the way the authorities concerned are unequal in their ways to implement eviction and demolition orders. In the past seven years, while the High Court has entertained the BGMEA’s petition, a number of slums have been pulled down and demolished. When slum dwellers are not even given a proper notice and rehabilitation plan, the government arranged for 5.5 bighas of land at a substantially subsidised rate for the BGMEA’s new building. The claim of activists that the illegal building still stands as a symbol of inequality and the BGMEAs wielding power is, therefore, on point.
In what follows, the government should right the wrong and prove that the law is equal for all. In order to regain people’s faith in the legal system, it should implement the High Court order without further delay.
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