Five months have passed since the Appellate Division ordered the demolition of the BGMEA Bhaban for violating environmental rules, but the city authorities are yet to carry out the order.
The apex court has not yet published a copy of its full verdict, said capital development authority RAJUK as part of its excuses for the delay. Another excuse the town authorities cited is that they could not decide on who would pay for demolition work.
The BGMEA officials however said that a review is also pending on the verdict of the apex body.
But Munzill Murshid who was the amicus curie to apex court when the case was heard, is not satisfied with the RAJUK explanation.
“This may just be an excuse not to take down the building,” the lawyer who specialises in environmental laws, told bdnews24.com.
The 16-storey office building of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) was built in violation of the Wetlands Protection Act nearly two decades ago endangering wetlands at the capital’s Hatirjheel project.
In 1998, then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set the foundation stone of the building. The construction works began in Nov 28 the same year. The building was inaugurated by Khaleda Zia, the then prime minister in 2006.
The High Court ordered it to be taken down in 2011 as the building was constructed in violation of the law. The top court on Jun 2 this year upheld the verdict.
“The BGMEA Bhaban is like a cancer in the Hatirjheel project and if the building is not taken down immediately, it will infect not just Hatirjheel but the entire Dhaka City,” said the High Court in its verdict.
It also said ‘the reason behind sparing a certain influential quarter with strong financial backup beyond the reach of law is completely unacceptable’.
The authorities could not decide who would pay for the demolition, RAJUK Chairman M Bajlul Karim told bdnews24.com, when asked about the delay.
“There are costs of demolition. We don’t know if the RAJUK or BGMEA is supposed to bear it. We can’t come to a decision until we get the full verdict,” he said adding “We have to understand RAJUK’s role in this. This matter will not be solved without the full verdict.”
Housing and Public Works Minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossain said it will not take very long to start demolition work once the full verdict is out.
“We have appointed a lawyer who is working on this matter. I have also spoken to the attorney general. We will demolish the building when we get a copy of the verdict,” the minister said.
But Munzill Murshid, who heads the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, said there was no need for delay and the building can be taken down without the full verdict being published.
The BGMEA appealed to overturn the High Court’s verdict but their plea was rejected, therefore the High Court’s verdict is upheld, he said.
“The authorities have the copy of that verdict. So there is no reason for putting off the demolition. The Appellate Division’s verdict is not important here. It has upheld what the High Court decreed.”
City authorities can proceed with the work to tear down the building even if the BGMEA files a review petition against the Appellate Division verdict.
“The judgment will not be stayed even if there is a review. Without a stay, there is no bar on demolition,” he added.
There is very little precedence of verdicts being overturned at review level, said Murshid.
BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman also said they were waiting for a copy of the full Appellate verdict. “We are very respectful towards the law. If the court turns down our review then whatever is in the verdict will be respected.”