The Supreme Court of Bangladesh has recently decided two tort cases, which, given the rarity of tort litigation in Bangladesh, have the potential to be landmark rulings. The first is Bangladesh Beverage Industries Ltd v. Rowsan Akhter (69 DLR 129), where a company was ordered to pay 1.7 crores in damages to the family members of a pedestrian who was killed by the negligent driving of their delivery driver. The second is the verdict by the High Court Division for 20 lakhs compensation to be paid to Jihad’s parents, who died after falling into an uncovered deep shaft in the capital. In light of this, on Saturday, October 21, 2017, Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA), organised a symposium titled "Recent Judicial Decisions in Tort Law: A Changing Time" to discuss the significance of these two judicial decisions. Papers were presented on each of these cases by Barrister Md. Abdul Halim, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh (who was also the lead counsel in Jihad’s compensation case) and Mr. Taqbir Huda, Research Assistant, BILIA, respectively.
Barrister Halim’s paper was titled ‘Development of Constitutional Tort in Bangladesh: Zihad’s Case in Perspective’. He highlighted that the Zihad case should be considered a benchmark for the development of public law compensation in the judicial system of Bangladesh since it marks the first time that the High Court Division, embraced judicial activism, analysed gross negligence and breach of statutory duty of a government authority and applied principles of constitutional tort. He believes that it has potential to empower victims to seek compensation under Article 102 of the Constitution.
Mr. Huda’s paper was titled ‘Understanding the Bangladesh Beverage Case and Its Impact on The Vicarious Liability of Employers in Tort Law’. He stressed that the Bangladesh Beverage case is significant not only given the rarity of tort litigation in Bangladesh but also given the increasingly high road fatalities in the country since it may impel employers to exercise more care in ensuring their employees act responsibly, since failure to do so may result in vicarious liability in tort and a massive order of damages. However, as he said, in the absence of a central piece of legislation or comprehensive Supreme Court judgment which incorporates, systematises and emboldens the law of tort in Bangladesh, existing tort law will remain disparate and therefore largely ineffectual.
Former Attorney General for Bangladesh Advocate Mr. A.F. Hassan Ariff presided over the programme, while Mr. Md. Khalilur Rahman, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, was the designated discussant as he was the lead counsel for the plaintiff in the Bangladesh Beverage case.
Mrs. Rowsan Akhter, the claimant in the Bangladesh Beverage case and the wife of the victim was also present and expressed her deep dissatisfaction with existing system of tort law in Bangladesh by highlighting the many hurdles she had to face in the 27 year long litigation period of her case. She pointed out that even though the Appellate Division decreed in her favour, she is yet to receive her money from the company and she is doubtful whether she ever will.
Mr. Arriff emphasised that it is high time the Supreme Court enforced methods through which execution of a decree becomes easier for the recipients of compensation orders, and so companies are not able to use legal technicalities as delaying tactics by filing for multiple appeals, revisions and reviews.
Among others, Dr. Shahdeen Malik, Honorary Director of BILIA, and Mr. Kazi Habibul Awal, Chairman, Centre for Legal Studies, were also present.
The event was covered by Tahsin Noor, Research Officer at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA).