The High Court Division in a verdict on Sunday disqualified grabbers of rivers, canals and wetlands from contesting local and parliamentary elections.
The court directed all the grabbers to remove their structures from the banks of rivers, canals as well as from the wetlands at their own costs.
The river commission was directed to remove the structures and realize the costs from the grabbers if the grabbers fail to do it.
The court also directed the Election Commission to enforce the ruling.
A bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal also disqualified the grabbers from taking bank loans and directed Bangladesh Bank to enforce this ruling.
The bench directed local government authorities to prepare the list of grabbers in each union, upazila, district and division and get the list of grabbers published in newspapers.
The court also directed the government to make grabbing of rivers, canals and wetlands as criminal offence by amending the National River Conservation Commission Act 2013 within six months, empower the National River Conservation Commission to file cases against the grabbers, holding investigations against them and imposing harsh punishments on these criminals.
The bench gave the verdict after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peach for Bangladesh in 2016.
The verdict declared the National River Conservation Commission as ‘the legal guardian of the rivers’ and made it obligatory for the commission to protect all the rivers from the grabbers.
The court directed the cabinet secretary to inform all the government departments that henceforth they would have to take no objection certificates from the river commission before taking any project on the banks of rivers.
The court directed the authorities to prepare union, municipality, district or upazila wise digital database of rivers, canals and wetlands by determining the courses of rivers using SPARRSO satellite images and put them on public display and provide copies of the images to anyone on demand.
The court directed the water resources ministry secretary to make the National River Conservation Commission an independent and effective institution and submit compliance report after amending the National River Conservation Commission Act 2013.
In a separate directive cancelled the permission the government had given to the Hameem Group to set up Sajid Washing on the Turag River bank at Tongi.
The court said that Article 18 A of the Constitution requires the state to protect and improve the environment and to preserve and safeguard natural resources, biodiversity, wetlands, forests and wildlife for the present and future citizens.
The court directed the education ministry to arrange on hour classes at each, school, madrasah, college and university twice each month on the importance of rivers and how to protect them from the grabbers.
The court also directed the industries ministry to hold hour long meeting with workers once every two months on the importance of rivers and canals and their conservation by stopping pollution.
The court directed the government to hold seminars at unions, municipal, district or upazila towns at least once every three months on the importance of rivers, canals and wetlands and their conservation.
The court treated the writ petition as Continuous Mandamus so that any aggrieved citizen could revive the issue in the High Court Division.
Manzill Murshid appeared for HRPB and Asaduzzaman for the Hameen Group.
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