Supreme Court Reiterates-No Toxic Ship to Enter Bangladesh
Dec 15, 2010
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Ship breaking yards, Bangaldesh. PHOTO: ©Brendan Corr, www.brendancorrphotography.co.uk

In an application filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), a division bench of the High Court Division comprising Mr. Justice A.H.M. Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Mr. Justice Sheikh Md. Zakir Hossain has directed the government not to allow entry of any scrap vessels into Bangladesh till the earlier Supreme Court decision are meticulously complied with.

The application was filed by BELA alleging tactical avoidance by the government of the earlier court directions that led to “business as usual” by the ship breakers killing 30 and crippling 25 ship breaking labourers in the last 18 months since the judgment was passed (the industry operated for 12 months). BELA application highlighted how the government tactically rendered the High Level Technical Committee by not placing crucial issues for decisions before it and by setting up few other committees with the view to facilitate the entry of toxic ships to Bangladesh. While the Court reiterated and emphasized on the proper implementation of the directions given in the judgment, it directed the government to set up an “expert committee” within 1 (one) month as opposed to a committee of bureaucrats to oversee the matters and to ensure labour safety and environmentally sound management of ship breaking operation.

The earlier direction of the Court on allowing only “pre-cleaned” ships to enter Bangladesh was also clearly deviated from when the Ministry of Environment and Forest worked with the Ministry of Commerce and amended the Import Policy Order to allow import of scrap ships with dangerous and carcinogenic “in-built substances”. Despite the Court’s reiteration of its earlier direction on “pre-cleaning” (vide order dated 11 May, 2010), the government took no move to amend the Import Policy Order to require authentic “pre-cleaning” certificates. The Court today has directed the government to give overriding priority to the health and safety of the labourers and rigorously follow the directions of the judgment in this regard to ensure that only “safe ships” enter Bangladesh.

The direction of the Court to frame “adequate and effective” rules to prevent entry of hazardous ships to Bangladesh and to ensure that the yards and the breaking operation only takes place after proper precautionary measures are taken and facilities are in place was also attempted to be compromised as the Government made a very inadequate rule and did not borrow form the applicable laws as directed by the judiciary. As BELA pointed out the various ambiguities and gross inadequacies of the draft rule, the Court directed on framing of rules within 3 (three) months relying on the judgment that required the consideration of six laws namely, the Basel Convention, 1989, the Environment Conservation Act, 1995, the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997, Labour Act, 2006, Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Acts, 1974 and the Marine Fisheries Ordinance, 1983.

Ship Breaking can only continue if the directions of the judgment passed by Mr. Justice Md. Imman Ali and Mr. Justice Sheikh Abdul Awal are fully complied with, was the verdict from the Court today.

The BELA petition was moved by S. Rizwana Hasan and Iqbal Kabir while Mr Rokonuddian Mahmood, bar-at-law, Mr. Anisul Haque and Mr. Fazle Nur Taposh, bar-at-law appeared for the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA).

Sent by: M. Iqbal Kabir (01711 567480), Lawyer, BELA (15-12-2010)

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