Hashem Foods fire: HC orders govt to ensure medical care for injured workers

The High Court has ordered the attorney general to speak to the secretary of health and the secretary of labour to ensure that all workers injured in the fire at the Hashem Foods factory in Narayanganj’s Rupganj receive proper medical care.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 11 July 2021, 07:00 AM
Updated : 11 July 2021, 10:37 AM

The court also ordered a list of workers injured and hospitalised due to the incident.

The court’s decision came on Sunday, after Justice M Enayetur Rahim heard a petition calling for compensation for the victims of the fire.

Advocate Sara Hossain asked the court for interim compensation payments for the families of the over 50 workers killed in the blaze.

“My jurisdiction is limited and I cannot issue a rule as it is a singular bench,” the judge responded.

“It is a tragic incident,” he said. “The entire nation is in mourning. We do not expect such things to happen. A criminal case has been filed over the incident and nearly all of the owners have been arrested. The trial will come in time. Now is the time for investigation.”

Firefighters are engaged in efforts to douse a massive fire in the factory of Hashem Foods Ltdon in Narayanganj's Rupganji Jul 9, 2021. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Of the petition for compensation, Justice Rahim said: “Yes, there is a proper claim for compensation. As far as I know, our state minister for labour went to the scene on the day of the incident. He promised the injured Tk 200,000 each from the government. Today the papers say the secretary of labour visited the injured at the hospital and spoke of paying compensation as well, but I don’t know if that’s enough.”

Another issue is that all but one of the dead has yet to be identified and DNA tests are required to identify the bodies properly, the judge said. These tests may take upwards of 21 days.

“How can we determine the compensation due when we haven’t identified the bodies and given them back to their families? Your petition needs to wait a bit.”

Justice Rahim also cited the case of the United Hospital fire, where an interim order for compensation prior to a rule by a singular bench of the High Court raised a question at the Appellate Division. A singular bench’s ability to order compensation appears to be limited, according to the judge.

“But I think this is the first time that the owners have been brought to face the law so quickly,” he told the petitioners. “So, let’s see. Give us some time regarding the compensation. I believe that a regular case can be filed when regular court proceedings resume.”

Advocate Rezaul Karim then asked the court to order the company to bear all the victims’ medical costs, to which Justice Rahim responded that the company had already advertised that it would do so. If they failed to pay, the matter could be brought back to court, he said.

The court also noted, at the urging of Advocate Karim, that the factory had violated the labour law by allowing underage workers and that an appropriate punishment would be imposed once the victims were identified.

The fire at the Hashem Foods factory at Rupganj has left over 50 dead and many others injured.

A fire burnt goods on the fifth floor of Hashem Foods factory in Narayanganj’s Rupganj into ashes. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

On Saturday night the Ain o Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, and Safety and Rights Society filed a petition seeking Tk 10 million in compensation for the families of each worker killed and Tk 3.5 million for each of the injured.

In addition to the full compensation, the petition also sought an order for Tk 1 million each to the families of the dead and Tk 500,000 to the injured as interim compensation.

It also sought an order from the Bangladesh Bank to freeze the bank accounts of Hashem Foods Ltd, its managing director Md Abdul Hashem and other members of his family.

The document asked for directions from the concerned parties to expedite the treatment and the payment of the medical expenses of the injured, as well as from the civil surgeon of Narayanganj to submit medical reports of the injured to the High Court every month.

The defendants accused in the writ have also been asked to submit an investigation report on the incident with recommendations for future measures within two weeks.

A rule was sought as to why the failure and negligence of the people involved in the fire should not be declared illegal and why action should not be taken against them in accordance with the law to ensure justice and punishment through effective investigation.

In addition, the petition also sought a rule on why the authorities should not be instructed to compensate the families of the victims and the injured.

Police have filed a separate case over the incident, which includes murder charges under section 302 of the Penal Code, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Police have arrested factory owner Md Abul Hashem, his four sons and three others over the case and have received a remand to interrogate them.