By Rezaul Karim Raj
As an integral part of the clinical legal education program in the Department of Law, University of Dhaka, the Law Clinic was a trailblazing initiative that helped the young law students to develop key skills which lawyers have to possess. This includes client interviewing skills, management of a law firm, marshaling of facts, arts of examination and cross examination, civil and criminal procedure in practice, and different laws in action.
After a brief hiatus, the program was revived and relaunched again by the Law Department, with implementation support by the Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST), and funded by Maxwell Stamp (PLC) and DFID. Under a board of advisors consisting of Professor Dr. Taslima Monsoor – Dean, Faculty of Law, Professor Dr. Borhan Uddin Khan – Chairman, Department of Law and Professor Dr. Md. Rahmat Ullah of the Department, the Clinical Legal Education Program was coordinated by Professor Dr. Muhammad Ekramul Haque and Professor Dr. Md. Towhidul Islam. Being a student at the final years, it was a privilege for all of us to be a part of this initiative.
The first class of law clinic was blessed to have the presence of both Dr. Kamal Hossain and Barrister Amir ul Islam. They delivered lectures on professional ethics of lawyers and Judges, highlighted on the relations between the Bench and the Bar. We got to understand that, if one wants to shine in the legal arena, hard and relentless working is a precondition. Looking after money should not be the moto of Lawyer rather with the successfully passing the time with due care and love to this profession enough to reach in the highest position in the bar.
Among other distinguished resource persons, Honorable Justice Naima Haider, Abdul Matin Khasru MP, Advocate Mr. Ahsanul Karim, Sayeda Rizwana Hasan, Barrister Khaled Hamid Chowdhury, Mr. Zakir Hossain and many other renowned alumni, learned Judges and Advocates delivered their valuable lectures on various legal issues effectively.
Personally, I was highly encouraged by the speeches of the icons in the legal arena of Bangladesh. A renowned specialist of Forensic Medicine Department from Dhaka Medical College took two classes on Medical Jurisprudence. It was a very interesting session where he described various ways of death from various causation like hurt or grievous hurt, hanging, slaughtering, stabbing, drowning, setting fire on the body, shooting and so on.
If one wants to shine in the legal arena, hard and relentless working is a precondition. Looking after money should not be the moto of Lawyer rather spending time and sincere hard work with due care and love to this profession will help to reach in the highest position in the bar.
All the participants of law clinic got the chance to discuss legal issues outside the class room. Every class used to be enjoyable; we learned and gained newer experiences. We felt it easier to ask questions on all the things relating to the bench and bar, litigants, jurisprudence, constitution and penal issues. Mainly the friendly environment of the clinical classes encouraged us for learning with the tremendous enjoyment. For the first time we could realize that law can be learnt & thought with enormous pleasures.Law clinic was more participating and the place of materializing the theoretical knowledge of law into practical experience. When the veterans of the profession shared the bitter and good experiences with an open mind, it turned the classes into a joy ride of thrilling and adventurous movie. Inspirational side of law clinic attracted us much.
Despite the fun, it was not always too easy to keep up with the pressure. Maintaining time and prescribed dress code was mandatory. Initially we struggled to cope up with these strict rules but with the time, we could manage the discipline pretty well. Since the ‘legal’ dress code is mandatory for the lawyers and judges, we felt proud to wear the suits and the robes. Following every directions of regarding class schedule was very impressive because no one used to miss the classes, they never really wanted to. It also shows that if we cherish sincerity to anything, success is a must.
Court visits and real life experiences
As part of the program, we visited the Dhaka District Judgeship where we met with District Judge Kuddus Zaman. He highlighted that although the government along with judicial administration are trying to reduce the case log, but the case log both in civil and criminal have been increasing in a tremendous way. There are various reasons, chiefly the scope of appeal in different stages of the cases to the superior courts. It seems that people nowadays do not want to satisfy their mind on the decision of the trial court for which they make appeal again and again. To stop this practice the right of appeal should be curtailed in some extent.
He also informed that there is a continuous crisis of learned, wise lawyer practicing on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in our country as there almost every International Treaty (whether bilateral or multilateral), covenant, convention there are provisions of Arbitration. It has been and is still being experienced that any international dispute arise with other country in majority cases Bangladesh is beaten away or defeated for the lack of experienced & learned lawyer. Moreover, Bangladesh has to hire international consultants at high rated fees. So it is time in this global village system that we should make experienced lawyer in this regard. In a word. Arbitration Advocacy is a new horizon opened to the young, energetic Lawyer in this present context extending its demand day by day.
I was surprised seeing the suit file that was a volume of 80/100 pages. The file becomes larger with passage of time submitting various documents during the pendency of the suit. Really it was a great experience to all of us.
We visited the family court of Dhaka judgeship. We observed the court room was very small. The presiding judge informed that although bringing child witness in the court room is forbidden, many of the litigants wants to do emotional blackmail the presiding judge by carrying the child in her lap at the time of attending court as witness.
Nejarat Department is the main office from where summons and notices are issued and served to the address of the parties of the suits. Although the Nejarat Department is most important for the issuance of suit process, it is vulnerable as we observed. The officials and the servants of that department told us that to serve a summons/notice the litigants paid Tk. 5/10 for per notice but to serve the notice directly by the persons it cost at around of Tk. 80/100 as transport cost within Dhaka Metropolitan area. This low payment of revenue discourages the court man and other officials resulting non-service of notices at the just time. They also informed us that they even did not get any TA/DA for the issuance of process to the remote area. Their recommendation was to increase the court fees/process fees comparing the socioeconomic condition of Bangladesh.
We visited the Chamber of Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge where he tried to envisage a structural process of describing criminal judicial process. He advised the judicial officers not to run after money. Nowadays after getting appointment in the judiciary officers want to be millionaire by any means. He said life of a Judge can easily be led following honesty, charity and dignity as the newly pay scale for judicial officers is marvelously high.
We visited the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court Dhaka where we met with the CMM along with other three Magistrate in the Judicial Conference Room. The CMM describe how the criminal proceedings of Magistrate Court is run as the First Trial Court. He also delivered briefing on the criminal trial procedure. The Chief Metropolitan magistrate invented an innovative way of distributing cases especially regarding bail & remand for controlling corruption. He distribute cases to his subordinate Magistrate just an hour before the inception of the every day’s trial.
Some aspects of my observation on the visit to the Judges Court
Visiting Metropolitan Magistrate Court No. 28 was a great real life experience of judiciary. For the first time I witnessed the criminal trial proceeding by the Magistrate presiding over the court. I observed how the Magistrate invoked the accused asking whether he is willing to give defense witness in his favor under section-342 of CrPC.
I also noticed that the Advocate appearing on behalf of the accused was not well-prepared on the fact for which judge drew adverse presumption to the accused. In the same court there was proceeding of a wife killing case in which the defense lawyer appeared with the bail petition which was rejected by the Magistrate on the ground that if any person died in the custody of others and there was no access of any third party then the court shall presume the custodian as prima facie liable for the death section.
Majority of cases filed under the Suppression of Women and Children Control Act, 2001 are false, fabricated, scandalous and with no real disputes. We observed here the original copies of FIR, Complaint, Summons, Warrant, Charge Sheet, Police Report by IO, Inquest Report, Seizure List, Deposition sheet etc.
Some inconsistencies were drown our attention in the Sessions Court such as the distance of the accused’s box in the court room was unreasonably far from the presiding judge. Which may sustain a chance of impersonation in the trial proceeding or for granting bail. Moreover there is no interpreter in the sessions court for the foreign citizens who are accused on various crimes. It can easily cause a failure to notice the accused vividly when examining the accused granting bail petition or other trial proceedings.
The environment inside the Dhaka Bar Association building is totally a haphazard situation. There are lack of well-furnished desks, congenial environment and being congested no space for easy & friendly interview with the clients.
In the Adversarial Judicial system of Bangladesh, Judiciary is the trio-relationship of Litigants, Lawyers and Judges. Bar Association plays important role to implement dress code, professional ethics of the practicing Advocates and maintain the discipline and assistance & relationship between the Bar and Bench. Hygienic environment, enriched Bar library, dinning and sanitary system should be developed. For the purpose of proper communication, ensuring frank & easy interview with the clients, calm and friendly environment must be improved.Justice should be ensured outside of the court too.
The visit to the Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Supreme Court visit was the most important achievement for the participators. At first we met with Mr. Zakir Hossain, Registrar of Bangladesh Supreme Court in his office. It was the first experience to visit the Apex Court formally. He made a plan for visiting the Supreme Court main building and its premises. The most important achievement for us was the golden chance for visiting the Court of the Honorable Chief Justice Mr. Surendra Kumar Sinha. We found him with the most energetic and enthusiastic personality. His judicial activism made us feel proud for the Higher Judiciary. The Court of Hon’ble Justice Md. Abdul Wahab Miah presiding the court with other four companion justices was very enjoyable and friendly one. Although the day was for appeal hearing we got a memorable experience. Being pleased He called in our teachers Dr. Mohammad Ekram and Dr. Towhidul Islam who were in the Registrar’s Office and requested them to give us a chance to visit the Appellate Division on others day except Appeal Hearing day which would be more effective to the students.
The sessions in the Court of Hon’ble Justice Naima Haider was most enjoyable and inspiring for us. We never attend such effective and learning court session in our past life. Her judicial activism was excellent. We experienced the fluency of both Bengali & English with the super mechanism of judicial proceedings. The trial was going on the breach of contract and breach of trust upon which legal lacuna was effectively observed by the Judge.
There is a great collection of law books, journals from home and abroad and many other legal documents in the Supreme Court Judges’ Library for High Court Division, Appellate Division and Supreme Court Bar Library. Books always inspired me and gave me immense pleasure.
Visiting the Supreme Court Bar Association was another experience gathering institution. Because most of the Chambers and Cubicles of Senior Advocates are placed in the Supreme Court Bar Building.
We found that the magical touch of digital system has greatly adorned the Higher Judiciary. Now the cause list, list of granting Bail petition, seating of presiding Judges with court number are displayed on the premise of High Court Division (Extension). The Officials of Supreme Court also informed us that important judgements are provided online in the Supreme Court Website.
The collection of all the gazettes, notifications, directions, judgements of both divisions are carefully preserved in the record room registering in the registration volume. Anyone can call for any old judicial documents from this department.
The Mock Trial: Taste of real life litigation
At the end of the Law Clinic program, a mock trial was arranged to familiarize the students with real life legal battles. A real life case was provided as the problem and the students pleaded them before the judges as like as real trial proceeding in the court room. This is important to correct both the substantive and procedural issues. The judges directed first and the parties presented their case, took witness, examined and cross examined. After following the arguments and observing the evidence submitted therewith the Judges declared their decision. It was really enjoyable and effective for the participants to have the procedural laws more practically in real aspect.
In my overall experience, it was a revitalizing moment of the undergraduate years in law department of University of Dhaka. I am sincerely grateful to our respected teachers and Co-coordinators Professor Dr. Towhidul Islam & Professor Dr. Muhammad Ekramul Haque for their valuable contributions, hard work and relentless support. As a law student and participant of the law clinic, I strongly recommend the future participants to actively participate and learn from this exciting opportunity in the days to come. Law is all about practice, and Law Clinic is the place where you can effectively learn it !
Rezaul Karim Raj is a final year Law student at University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]