No trial of collapsed Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana took place in six years since the disaster killed 1,138 people, mostly female apparel workers, and injured over 2,400 at Savar on April 24, 2013.
The families of the deceased, injured people and workers who suffered from the worst industrial accident of the world were still waiting for justice as hardly any progress was made in the trial of 14 cases filed in this connection.
Sohel Rana, local Awami Juba League leader at Savar, his parents Abdul Khaleque and Marzina Begum and five apparel factory owners were named in 14 the cases, including 11 filed with the Labour Court.
Although Sohel Rana and 40 others were charged on July 18, 2016 in a case filed on murder charge, none of the 594 prosecution witnesses was examined yet.
Of the 41, only Sohel Rana was in custody while 32 were on bail and six were still in hiding and two died in the meantime.
Additional public prosecutor Mizanur Rahman said that the witnesses could not be examined as the High Court had stayed the proceedings.
He said eight accused former Savar municipal mayor Bangladesh Nationalists Party leader Refatullah and former councillor Mohammad Ali, Abul Hossain, Shahidul Islam, Yusuf Ali, Abdus Samad, Jamsedur Rahman and Belayet Hossain obtained the stay order on different dates challenging the framing of charges against them.
Refatullah and Mohammad Ali got the proceeding stayed on May 9, 2018 and December 12, 2018 while the rest stay orders had already been withdrawn, the prosecutor said.
He said that the attorney general had been requested to take steps to get the stay order withdrawn to pave the way for the trial.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam, however, said that the public prosecutors should have persuaded him to seek withdrawal of the stay orders as there were thousands of cases he had to deal with.
Labour rights campaigners alleged that insincerity of the government was delaying the justice.
Rights activists and jurist Sara Hossain said that the offences were proved at the time of collapse.
‘The nine-storey building was faulty but garment owners rented spaces for their factories, the authorities allowed them, workers were forced to enter there even after detection of cracks in the building,’ she said.
The prosecutor also said that there was no progress either in another case filed on charge of building code violation.
Dhaka additional chief judicial magistrate’s court on June 14, 2016 framed charges against Sohel Rana and 17 others in the case.
The trial could not proceed as several revision cases challenging the framing of charges were pending with the District and Sessions Judge’s Court, he said.
Rights lawyers said that 11 more cases were still pending with the Dhaka Labour Court. The 11 cases were filed by the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments against Sohel Rana and five apparel factory owners over their failure to provide prior notice to the victims that Rana Plaza became a risky building after developing cracks.
Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity president Taslima Akter said that Rana Plaza collapse was a systematic murder.
‘Workers hoped that they will get some positive change at the cost of the huge lives but they got nothing,’ said the trade union leader.
She said that workers hoped to get a safe working place, proper compensation after the workplace accident, liveable wage, trade union right but their hopes went in vain.
‘Only movement could ensure justice as government was reluctant to ensure justice for the manmade disaster,’ she said.
Rana Plaza collapse shocked the world for its casualties and the garment producers, buyers and brands fall in pressure from the customers.
Workplace safety for workers came forward and the brands and buyers were forced to contribute in Rana Plaza Claim Administration.
Although the families of the deceased workers and the injured workers got some financial aid, legal compensation was still far away while justice was still a far cry.
Labour activists said that there was no headway in the cases due to negligence of the government.
A Dhaka special judge’s court, however, jailed Sohel Rana for three years on August 29, 2017 for not submitting wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Rehena Akter, who lost her leg in Rana Plaza collapse, lamented that she might not see the punishment of the people who made her lame.
Injured workers Mahmudul Hasan Ridoy, Nasir, Nilufa, Pakhi and Roksana urged the government to ensure justice for them.
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