A. R. Farukh Ahamed
These two court orders, in an in-depth sense, again remind us that children and their rights must be protected regardless of their social status, time, place, or race. The midnight justice which was delivered to protect the two orphan grandsons of former Attorney General KS Nabi, cannot be an exception, but rather a case to be applicable to every child in Bangladesh. The court rightly deserves the honor always. Similarly, every child deserves to sleep in peace at night in a home of their own, writes A. R. Farrukh Ahamed.
A new dimension has been added to the history of judicial efficacy in Bangladesh with a verbal suo moto delivered at midnight to uphold the right of two orphans. The orphan boys, grandsons of the late 9th Attorney General KS Nabi, have finally been able to return to their father’s home after the High Court Bench of Justice Abu Taher Md Saifur Rahman and Justice Md Zakir Hossain verbally issued a unique suo moto over telephone and direction asking police of Dhanmondi, Dhaka to ensure entry of the children to their late father’s home and arrange police protection for them last Saturday.
The bench took the initiative (voluntary) after a live discussion on the issue by a private television channel. The grandchildren of the late attorney general had not been allowed to enter their ancestral house at Dhanmondi by their paternal uncle. The boys returned from their divorcee mother’s residence escorted by the police as per order by their Lordships who restored them to their ancestral house.
The court at midnight is not new in Bangladesh. Also at midnight, the court sat to stay the verdict of the 5th Amendment. It also happened concerning the bail case of a person involved with a vernacular newspaper. When the oxygen supply was disrupted during the rescue operation of Rana Plaza accident, the court intervened at midnight. Though not exactly midnight, in the late evening of 9 pm, the court stayed the execution of war criminals in another incident.
Therefore, not the midnight, but justice that happened to protect the rights of children is the case to be discussed. We can there recall the historic judgment of Justice Md. Iman Ali and Justice Sheikh Hasan Arif who gave an order to ban corporal punishment on academic premises. These two court orders, in an in-depth sense, again remind us that children and their rights must be protected regardless of their social status, time, place, or race. The midnight justice which was delivered to protect the two orphan grandsons of former Attorney General KS Nabi, cannot be an exception, but rather a case to be applicable to every child in Bangladesh. The court rightly deserves the honor always. Similarly, every child deserves to sleep in peace at night in a home of their own.
The present government is very much committed to fulfilling the rights of children as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) ratified by the country in 1990. In protecting the rights of the child, the government has attempted to implement and apply the principles and provisions of the UNCRC. One remarkable outcome is the enactment of the new Children Act, 2013 reflecting some of the provisions of the UNCRC.
Children Act 2013 aimed for some ambitious initiatives such as the formation of the Child Welfare Boards, setting up of a Child’s Affairs Desk at the police station, and appointment of the relevant officials, children courts, family institutional care, and a few others. But lack of coordination among different government ministries is a major barrier to the implementation of any of the Children Act 2013. At present, there is no separate children’s directorate to oversee the rights situation of the children in Bangladesh.
However, despite numerous efforts made by the incumbent Government of Bangladesh, till now a large number of children are deprived of their rights. Street children are a big number of deprived children in Bangladesh who are horrendously left on the road with an uncertain future.
There are currently no official statistics on the number of street children available in the country. Besides, it is nearly impossible to count their numbers as they increase over the years. Yet, it is estimated that there are more than 600,000 street children living in Bangladesh, 75% of them live in the capital, Dhaka.
In a country ranked 135th on the 2019 Human Development Index and where about 50% of the population is living below the poverty line, street children represent the absolute lowest level in the social hierarchy, in the world’s most densely populated nation. Population in this country has almost doubled since its independence in 1971, and the number of street children has also increased to an estimated six million by this time. No remarkable effort has been taken to take back these unattended children home by the successive governments of the country.
However, the causes behind the growing number of street children, are not tough to identify but would be good to have studied for accurate information. The principal cause is no doubt extreme poverty that transforms thousands of children into homeless. But still, the greater cause of ‘street children is government neglect, dysfunction, and corruption.
The street children have no particular living or sleeping place. Many of them die as only street kids as they are not properly cared for. They are incapable of buying healthy foods, and most of the time they eat foods not hygienic, as well as have to starve sometimes looking for food.
Now, therefore, it is the expectation of our conscience that the safe living of all children including millions of street urchins in Bangladesh should be ensured with such suo moto issued by the Court for those Dhanmondi children. Their Lordship High Court shall do it obviously, we urge.
(Mr. Farrukh is PhD Fellow, Begum Rokeya University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)