JUDICIAL REFORMS AND LEGAL AID SERVICE EXPERIENCE IN BANGLADESH

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					                  JUDICIAL REFORMS AND LEGAL AID SERVICE:
                         EXPERIENCE IN BANGLADESH∗

                                                     by

                                Hon. Syed J.R. Mudasir Husain
                          Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh


Distinguished Chairperson,

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
      force.

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
      objectivity mainly;

             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.


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     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
     cost.
     After successful implementation of the Reform Programmes in the Pilot
     Districts, our Reform Consultants will go for reforms in other Districts of the



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      country by replicating the CMCA Model already tested and experimented in the
      Pilot Districts.

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
     support staffs.

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
    country.

      I wish the Conference a resounding success.
                                     ---oo0oo---


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