Rana Plaza probe makes no progress: Govt is yet to give permission for suing its six officials

rana plaza rescue

The trials and investigation of a dozen cases filed after the Rana Plaza building collapse in Savar in April 2013 have not moved an inch in last one year leaving the survivors and families of the dead disappointed. Expressing their disappointment over the delay, the survivors, families of the deceased and labour rights activists blamed the government for buying time in the name of investigation. ‘We have seen nothing [relating to the cases] moving in last two years. But, trials must be completed to set examples for other factory owners otherwise such tragedies will strike again and the factory owners will go unpunished, ’ said 20-year-old Rehana Khatun, a sewing operator of New Wave Styles factory the collapsed Rana Plaza had housed. As 11 cases remain pending for trial with the labour court in Dhaka and two others under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department, two year after the tragedy, the affected workers and labour rights activists questioned whether the government was  sincere about ensuring justice. ‘The delay in the investigation seems deliberate as it is evident who are responsible for the tragedy …,’ Garment Workers Unity Forum president Mushrefa Mishu told New Age. She blamed the government for the delay saying that it did not want to establish rule of law and justice. ‘This delay is unacceptable. The victims deserve justice as well as full compensation for lost wages and medical costs as well as for the pains and sufferings caused [by the disaster]. It is for the latter in particular that we need the legal system to act much more swiftly…,’ Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaigns told New Age. The CID chief, additional inspector general Sheikh Hemayet Hossain, refused comments over the matter although his predecessor, Mokhlesur Rahman, last year on the eve of the first anniversary of the tragedy had claimed that the investigation had been completed and the charge sheet would be submitted to the court soon. When approached, state minister for home Asaduzzaman Khan also declined comments on why the investigation was getting delayed. The CID officials, however, pointed the finger at other agencies concerned for the delay saying that the Cid was yet to obtain permission to prosecute seven government officials found responsible, along with the Rana Plaza owners and others, for the disaster. On the morning of April 24, 2013, the eight-storey Rana Plaza, which had housed five clothing factories, a shopping mall and a bank, came crashing down, leaving at least 1,135 people dead and about 2,000 injured. After the disaster, the police filed a case against the building owner, Sohel Rana, and the owners of the five clothing factories housed in the building under Section 337, 338, 427, 304 (b) and 34 of Penal Code. Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha filed another case against the Savar municipality under Section 12 of Building Construction Act 1952. The CID is investigating both the cases. In addition, the family of a victim also filed a murder case with a Dhaka court. The court, however, asked the CID to investigate the victim family’s case together with the one filed by the police immediately after the incident as both the cases have similar nature. Two years have passed, but the CID has yet to submit the charge sheet in the cases. Last year when New Age spoke to the investigator, CID’s senior assistant superintendent Bijoy Krishna Kar, he said, ‘We are taking preparations for submitting the charge sheet… We are scrutinising the case documents…’ But, when he was approached again before the second anniversary of the building collapse, Bijoy skipped comments and advised New Age to approach the CID chief. A number of officials concerned told New Age that lack of sincerity on the part of the government was causing the unusual delay. The CID investigators found involvement of 42 people, including six named in the First Information Report, the land and factory owners, officials concerned of both Savar upazila administration and municipality administration, and others involved in the faulty construction of the building under Sections 302, 304, 327 and 307 of Penal Code. The CID sought permission from the respective offices to name 13 officials in the cases. The public administration ministry’s senior assistant secretary Shahnaz Yesmin Lilly in a letter on December 23, 2014 informed the CID that they would not give permission to press charge against the then Savar Upazila Nirbahi Officer, Kabir Hossain Sardar, while RAJUK in a separate letter on December 11, 2014 refused permission for action against its building inspector Awlad Hossain. The labour ministry also refused permission for pressing charges against four of it officials—joint labour director Jamshedur Rahman, the then deputy chief factory inspector Belayet Hossain, inspectors (engineering) Yusuf Ali and Shahidul Islam. The government, however, gave permission for action against seven, including the then Savar municipal mayor Refayetullah, who was linked to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, councillor Muhammad Ali Khan, and the municipality’s then chief executive officer Uttam Kumar Roy. About the role of the then UNO Kabir, the CID investigators found that he had visited the building a day before it collapsed after the workers declined to enter the building. He allowed the factory owners to run the units even after cracks appeared on the building. ‘It was found that other government officials did not also perform their duties according to the laws,’ a senior CID official told New Age. The official said the CID was now planning to submit the charge sheet with a request to the court to take measures as it deemed necessary as the CID had failed to obtain the permission from the authorities concerned to press charges against the six government officials. In the case filed by RAJUK, the CID found negligence by 18 people, including the building owner, factory owners and the officials concerned. The investigators so far arrested 22 people, including Sohel Rana, also a Juba League leader in Savar, government engineers, local political leaders, and top executives of the factories that had collapsed. Of the 22 arrested people, all but three, including Sohel Rana, were granted bail by the High Court. The CID has so far recorded statements of more than 1,200 people, including government officials, witnesses, victims and experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, and executives from Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters’ Association. Besides, the investigators collected TV footages, newspaper clippings and expert opinions as evidence. Some 400 people would be named as prosecution witnesses. Apart from the two major cases, the labour ministry had filed 11 cases with the Labour Court in Dhaka against the owners of the garment factories Rana Plaza had housed and the owner of the building. They are charged with keeping the authorities in dark over the appearance of cracks on the building and negligence in ensuring the safety of workers. The cases were still pending against 12, including New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Styles chairman Bazlus Samad Adnan and executive director Delwar Ahmed, Phantom Tac and Phantom Apparels official Aminul Islam and Ethertex chairman Anisur Rahman. When asked about the delay in the trial of the cases, Shahidul Islam, the deputy inspector general at the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, who has been dealing with the cases, last year had claimed it was being delayed as all the factory owners had been in jail after the disaster. He made the same comments this year and in addition he said, ‘We cannot say when the trial would be completed as it sub-judice.’ Shahidul, however, could not say how many of them were in jail or out on bail at the moment.

Source: New Age