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We must ensure everyone has access to equal justice

Rayhan Ahmed Topader:

Discrimination on the Ground of Age in Public Services of Bangladesh.In order to achieve sustainable human development every country must foster a labour force favourable to social integration by formulating a rational set of recruitment policies.To ensure meaningful participation of citizens in economic, cultural and social life and to realize their full potential, it is imperative to guarantee equal opportun ities for all in employment and occupation. In Bangladesh, equal opportunity in public employment is guaranteed in Articles 27 and 29 of the Constitution. Despite being guaranteed in the Constitution, absolute equal opportunity is neither possible nor desirable as it is a well-established principle that in order to commence selection process of any appointment procedure,Classification which can simply be defined as an action or process of grouping, sorting, categorising, ranking or grading something according to shared qualities or characteristic, is primarily a business of the legislature or for the statutory authority charged with the duty of framing the terms and conditions of service. As the principle of classification falls within the mischief of Constitutional code of equality of opportunity in employ ment as enshrined in Articles 27 and 29 of the Constitution, it must be dealt with the utmost care.Therefore, must be truly founded on substantial differences which distinguish persons grouped together from those left out of the group and such differential attributes must bear a just and rational relation to the object sought to be achieved.Classification is thus justified and constitutional when it is based on a just and rational relation to the object sought to be achieved.

However, it does not debar indigenous people of Bangladesh to make their claims for justice through courts to change the very nature of the measures to be taken by the Government. A sixth century BC Scythian prince Anacharsis said: Written laws are like spider’s webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful. Jungle’s rule still prevails in many countries of the underdeveloped world where civilized laws are either trampled under the jackboot of autocrats or does not at all exist. Even in the countries of the developing world all people are not treated equally in the eyes of law.With petty crimes and corruptions, weaker people are handed down heavy punishment, while the rich and stronger people with committing greater crimes and corruptions melt out through the loopholes of laws. These corrupt people with their money and muscle power rule supreme in the society and in many cases usurp the state power by military muscle or even by winning the support of the gullible people through tricks and machina tions in democratic process.Crimes and corrup tions are like peanut for them which they commit with a free license in hands under the cover of politics and cheep populist slogans.With political muscle and power, crimes and corruptions go unabated in a country where different laws are in place, but their proper implications are of far cries. Mighty corrupt people with money and muscle indulging doing mockery with laws, hands of which are theoretically stretches long but, sadly in practice, is too short even to catch the long necks of criminals and corrupt people often walks in disguise in the corridors of laws.

When the corrupt politicians seating in the opposition camp are duly apprehended and brought to justice through the process of laws, then they start clamoring with louder voices and say that they are the victims of political rivalry and vengeance perpetrated by the government and ruling party. With taking benefits of the certain provisions of laws and its practices they subtly indulge in prolonging the dispensation of law for never ending time in order to evade punishments which otherwise they deserve without any doubt for their wrong doing. When a date comes closer in delivering the verdict of a court case relating to high corruptions and crimes, then the politicians call the press conference and declares in advance pleading his/her’s innocence that if he or she is acquitted from the case relating to his/her’s corruptions and crimes, then it would be viewed that the justice is done and if convicted then it would be viewed as verdict to have been delivered to please the government of the ruling party.A corruption case of a very high profile politician who is no less than a two time former prime minister of the country and who was supposed to be the custodian of peoples’ trust, stretched long ten years before being recently disposed off with a jail term, paints a dismal picture how a corruption case is delayed for such long time before being disposed off with a verdict, after buying time unduly on different pretexts and lame excuses. After the verdict is recently delivered with a jail term, there has been vociferous outcry painting the verdict as politically motivated.

British laws formulate jail code’ making special provisions for political prisoners and other prisoners who are socially accomplished persons in their own domain and are regarded as the voice of the people considering their social status and positions in the public eyes. Question again arises whether prisoners facing incarcera tion on criminal offence or corruption case garbed in political outfits are still eligible to enjoy special facility reportedly like hotel suit rooms with all luxurious furniture or fixture and electrical gadgets with personal attendants for their comforts within the four wall of prison cell?A political prisoner is someone imprisoned they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Moulana Bhasani, Nelson Mandela and many more iconic figures of their likes to name were the political prisoner. They did not go to prison on any corruption charges.They were the voices of the people. If a political figure not duly falling under the category of a defined political prisoner goes behind the bar on being convicted in corruption case, then is such prisoner eligible to enjoy such special facilities within the four walls of jail? If the answer to this question is negative, then it will be deemed that in the eyes of laws all are equal that we have been hearing this rhetoric for ages. If the answer to the above noted same question is affirmative, and then it is deemed that paradoxically all citizens are not equal in the eyes of laws.

In fine, all poor citizens of the Peoples Republic wish to dream a golden deer and stay equal at least in the eyes of laws in a constitutionally egalitarian’ and ‘secular’ State where equality of justice is supposed to prevail. Only God can help us.The paper will conclude by rejecting the above view (Thompson’s view) by saying that although the law, in general, may possess some positive characteristics, but that does not mean every law will give a positive outcome. This is because to address specific issues, the law should be constructed in specific ways. In case of indigenous people, the recognition of identity and right to self-determination is the starting point of equality. These must reflect both the language of law and measures that follow. However, this paper demonstrates through examples that the present affirmative action provision by categorizing indigenous as backward becomes discriminatory and dominant class’s tool to impose their own idea of equality that furthers the discrimination against indigenous people of Bangladesh.

Everyone is equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,The classification therefore on the ground of age is unreasonable and bears no nexus with the purported object sought.

There is no rational basis for curtailing the right to equality of opportunity in the matter of public employment of the persons over 30 years of age, which is a constitutio nally protected fundamental right.Secondly, the provision is also discriminatory, as it overlooks the Higher Education scenario of Bangladesh. One of the greater cons of higher education in Bangladesh is Sessions Jam.Although most of the posts require 4 years Honours Degrees, some of the posts even require Post-Graduation degrees, which takes away another couple of years from the candidates.The provision therefore is not only unreasonable but also a bar to proper utilization of the workforce of this country and to realize their full potential.So in conclusion, it can be said that the provision is discriminatory as it makes an unreasonable and unjustified classification on the ground of age without considering the particular occupational activities concerned, as well as for not being based on any legitimate employment policy addressing the drawbacks of prevailing educational infrastructure. The provision is neither appropriate nor necessary and has no nexus with any legitimate aim. Therefore, the judiciary as the guardian of the Constitution can look into the vires of the provision in order to secure right to equality and right to equal opportunity in public employment. Because, a country which tolerates discrimination, and systematically underestimates the potential of large number of its citizens, will waste vast quantities of human capital.

Writer and Columnist