JUDICIAL REFORMS AND LEGAL AID SERVICE:
EXPERIENCE IN BANGLADESH∗
Hon. Syed J.R. Mudasir Husain
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Honorable Judges, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Bangladesh is a unitary, democratic republic having its population of around
140 million, of which about 60 percent of the people depend on agriculture for
their livelihood. The Muslim constitutes 88 percent of the population and the
rest is of other religions. The Constitution guarantees religious and cultural
freedom to all citizens of the country and that is why it is well known as a
Moderate Muslim state in the world. It has primarily an agrarian economy and
agriculture is the largest sector in the national economy producing about 30
percent of the country’s GDP and employing around 60 percent of total labour
2. Being a sovereign republic it comprises three basic organs. And they are the
executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The administration of justice is the
responsibility of the judiciary, which comprises the Appellate Division and the
High Court Division of the Supreme Court at the higher level, followed by a
hierarchy of civil and criminal courts at the District level. In strict sense the
Appellate Division of the Supreme Court is the highest Court of the republic
comprising of 7 judges including the Chief Justice. Judicial independence and
impartiality are guaranteed by the constitution of the country.
3. In our age old Civil Justice System earlier the case management processes had
been excruciatingly slow, costly and time consuming. In view of that we had to
take a hard and critical look at our existing procedural laws and legal system.
Acknowledging the necessity, the Government of Bangladesh has taken a
project know as Legal and Judicial Capacity Building Project having its
a) to improve the quality and pace of the civil justice delivery system,
b) to reduce backlog,
c) to make the system more accessible to the users particularly to the
disadvantaged, women and children; and
d) to institutionalize resolution of disputes out of courts.
It is heartening to note that the World Bank and other international development
partners have been providing necessary fund and support to us for improving
Presented during the International Conference and Showcase on Judicial Reforms held at the Shangri-la Hotel,
Makati City, Philippines on 28-30 November 2005.
the existing Court Administration and Case Management System and for
strengthening of the judiciary.
4. Under the project a good number of Reform Experts and Consultants are
working in the Supreme Court and five Pilot Districts namely- Gazipur, Dhaka,
Rangpur, Comilla and Khulna. Still now we have kept our Reform initiatives
confined in the Supreme Court and five Pilot Districts. In the past few years
achievements so far made in those Districts are quite noteworthy. With the
assistance of the foreign and national consultants, the pilot districts have by this
time espoused and developed a Case Management and Court Administration
(CMCA) model and thereafter the same has been tested in the field level.
5. Earlier the cases were filed in a scattered way in different courts of the District
each having individual territorial and pecuniary jurisdictions and that caused
serious problems in monitoring the status of court-dockets, maintaining
distribution of workload for all judges and implementing the Case Management
Plans. To address those difficulties in each Districts with the help of Reform
experts our District Judges have constructed an effective Case Flow System
through creating two new sections namely :
i) the Central Filling Section and
ii) the Case Management Section.
6. In five Pilot District courts presently all plaints, applications, etc. are now filled in
single location of the Court house where they are examined and assigned a
case number and relevant particulars are entered in the Computers having
automated software of Modern Case Management System. The Pilot Districts
had assumed the responsibility for operating computerized Case Management
System and all those have been done under the close supervision of a Judge
know as the Judicial Administrative Officer created very recently.
7. Now in each Pilot District a Joint District Judge has been assigned to function
as the Judicial Administrative Officer and he has the primary responsibility to
implement the case management plans. You will be happy to know that by
adopting the new Case Management Model and by using Alternative Dispute
Resolution (ADR) mechanism in the Pilot District Courts we have successfully
reduced backlog of cases saving time and money.
8. In this regard I may give you a small instance of success about the Reform
Programmes in the Pilot Districts : Prior to the Reform initiatives in Gazipur
District Courts the clearance rate was 0.93, whereas after adopting modern
Case Management System in the last year the same has been raised to 1.34
and in this way the Pilot District courts have made substantive achievements
creating a legal climate, where the people get justice more speedily at minimum
After successful implementation of the Reform Programmes in the Pilot
Districts, our Reform Consultants will go for reforms in other Districts of the
country by replicating the CMCA Model already tested and experimented in the
9. Other key aspects of our Reform Programmes are introduction of Alternative
Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism, legal aid services and training
programme for the Judges and Court’s support staffs. In Bangladesh, last year
the legislature has enacted two new Sections i.e. Sections 89A and 89B in the
Code of Civil Procedure to make the judges enable to apply methods of
Mediation and Arbitration as supplements to the existing formal litigation
system. The said new provisions of CPC are applicable to all suits to be filed
and pending in Civil Courts. In Chapter-V of Money Loan Court Act, 2003
Sections 21 to 25 have been incorporated for the purpose of facilitating the
parties to settle their commercial disputes through Settlement Conference.
Taking the above legislative steps we have clearly made the ADR mechanism a
part and parcel of our formal legal system.
10. However, we believe, it is not possible to achieve sustainable success of
ADR merely by bringing some changes in our procedural laws and taking some
administrative steps. Still now there is a common perception that any lawyer
who suggests the ADR mechanism is considered to have a weak case. So, we
should get all the members of the legal community involved and create a win-
win atmosphere where the people would be satisfied for the resolution of the
disputes and that would help the judiciary in giving sufficient time and energy to
pay attention to the matters of public interest and complex nature.
11. In the last few years, we have arranged a good number of workshops and
orientation courses for the Judges and lawyers under the auspices of Judicial
Administration and Training Institute and other organizations. Judicial
Administration and Training Institute is primarily responsible for providing
continuing legal education and training to the Judges of all strata and court’s
12. In our age old legal systems there are some critical problems in access to
justice mainly for the following reasons: Firstly, increased sophistication of the
legal system which led to increased cost of litigation; Secondly, continuing
social inequality combined with the increased litigation cost created a sort of
restriction of access to justice for larger segment of the population, often
precisely the poor and disadvantaged groups of the society.
13. In order to respond to the demand for equality of Justice, we have brought the
legal community including the judges and the people of legal profession under
the canopy of the National legal Aid Organisation having the responsibility of
offering pro bono services to indigent litigants and vulnerable people of the
society. The said organization has now been expanded to all the Districts of the
I wish the Conference a resounding success.