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Unique verdict but how practical it is as an example is a big question

By Editorial Desk
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The verdict of the High Court Bench comprising Justice Zinat Ara and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo on Sunday asking the accused in a road accident to pay Tk 4.61 crore compensation to filmmaker Tareque Masud’s family is indeed a unique one. So far no court ruled this way asking the accused of road accidents to pay victims’ families. The credit goes to Masud's wife and her lawyers for working very hard for securing this judgement holding the driver and owner of the vehicle responsible.       The verdict is special in the sense it recognized the right of the victims to demand compensation.

But the verdict seems unrealistically high having admitted that no big amount of money can be enough as compensation for the loss of a very creative life like Tareque Masud’s in practical sense of the term. But we are not sure whether in similar cases of road accidents will it be possible for the court to give equal or equitable justice to all. Last year alone 6055 people died in road accidents according to some estimate and the casualties were yet bigger at 8,642 in the previous year.

We believe every such death deserves fair justice but they are denied justice by our justice system. Death in road accidents is treated as an act of destiny, not from neglect of drivers and transport operators. What is important this judgment for the first time has broken with the ongoing system of impunity to allow offenders go escort free. It has established killing on roads and highways would not go unpunished.

However in our view the verdict is not enough without an effective and functional system for implementation of the verdict. We also believe verdicts can’t be special in special cases; justice must be dispensed to all in equal situation and our legal system must set practical standard to give justice in all such cases.

Justice remains inaccessible to all victims of road accidents throughout the country. Law provides for a tribunal in every district to deal with compensation cases related to road accidents. But not every district has this tribunal and they are inoperative where they exist in absence of cooperation of police and lower judiciary.    

Masud and four others including noted TV programme producer Mishuk Munier, a crewman and the driver of their microbus were crashed in that bus accident at Manikgonj in August 2011. Mishuk’s family has also demanded Tk 5.5 crore in compensation in a separate case and the same High Court Bench is scheduled to give verdict in that case in February next.

In Masud’s case three owners of the bus are required to pay Tk 3.30 crore equally. The bus driver, who was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment early this year triggering nationwide transport strike for two days, has been asked to pay Tk 30 lakhs while the insurer to pay Tk 80 lakhs. The penalty money is likely to be almost double after the verdict in Munier’s case.

Money can’t be a substitute for life but a strong message has been delivered by their Lordships for bus drivers who have become infamous for callous driving.

In fact Transport Workers Unions and Bus Owners Associations are so powerful that they can force the government to compromise rule of law. We don’t know what happened to the bus driver who was given long imprisonment in the accident case.  Question also arises whether families of two others killed in the accident will get compensation and at what rate? It is not also clear whether their families have sued for the compensation.

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