Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) v Government and Bangladesh & Ors 19 BLD (1999) 488.
Residents and public interest organizations challenged slum demolition by government authorities; eviction deprives residents of means of livelihood and consequently right to life; obligations to provide natural justice before eviction; resettlement was recommended but not a right..
A large number of residents of basties (informal settlements) of Dhaka City were evicted without notice and their homes were demolished with bulldozers. A case, challenging the ongoing evictions, was brought by two residents and three citizens in the public interest. The Supreme Court held that inhabitants had some rights to shelter and a fair hearing and made recommendations for resettlement. At the outset, the Court recognized that the residents had migrated from rural areas due to poverty and natural calamity and had contributed to the national economy through work in the urban areas, though the Court was of the view that some residents became criminals. Turning to the law, the Constitution provides the State must ensure fundamental rights including life, respect for dignity and equal protection of the law and, further, that the State must direct its policy towards to ensuring the provision of the basic necessities of life including shelter. According to the Court, this latter constitutional directive was not judicially enforceable but the right to life includes the right not to be deprived of a livelihood (The Court approvingly quoted Olga Tellis v BMC from the Supreme Court of India). While the Court appreciated government efforts eradicate criminals from the slums, it noted that innocent slum dwellers often became victims of acts of repression by government agencies and other actors. The Court ordered that: (1) The government should develop a master guidelines, or pilot projects, for resettlement; (2) the plan should allow evictions to occur in phases and according to a person's ability to find alternative accommodation; (3) reasonable notice is to be given before eviction; (4) the government should clear up slums beside the railway lines andti roads, but resettle these slumdwellers.
Keywords: Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) v Government and Bangladesh & Ors 19 BLD (1999) 488., Justiciability, Enforcement, ESCR, Property
Despite the judgment, the Government evicted an additional 14,674 families (approximately 88,044 individuals) from 8 to 11 August 1999 (see COHRE and ACHR Mission Report below). In its annual review of cases, ASK notes that subsequent cases have drawn on the precedent, for example, Kalam & Ors v. Bangladesh & Ors 21 BLD (HCD) (2001) 446, but the Court again refrained from giving a direction for resettlement.
Ain O Salish Kendra 26/3 Purana Paltan Line Dhaka 1000, PO Box 3252 Bangladesh Tel: +880 2 835 851 Fax: +880 2 835 561 They were represented by Dr. Kamal Hossain
This case is important in Bangladesh for recognizing that constitutional and human rights protections apply in the case of eviction (see further commentary on Olga Tellis case).