Catherine Masud Press Statement re Accident Case Transfer to High Court - October 3, 2013
This case is not only about the tragic loss of Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier, and the families they left behind. This case is about the thousands of people who have been maimed and killed in road accidents and the thousands who will be in future. People who are not from one particular class or community, but people who come from all walks of life. Road accidents kill the young and old, Hindu and Muslim, women and men, the rich and the poor. Anyone, anywhere, any time can be a victim. This case is about them. Because what we call an “accident” is not really so. Road accidents come about because of conscious, willful decisions on the part of those responsible. Decisions of drivers to drive without licenses, at high speeds and without a proper night’s sleep. Decisions of transport company owners to allow their drivers to drive without any training or licensing. Willful decisions on the part of these owners to pay their drivers according to the number of trips they make rather than a monthly wage, encouraging drivers to drive faster and more recklessly in order to earn more money. Decisions on the part of insurance companies to insure vehicles that don’t meet legally mandated safety standards. Decisions on the part of insurers, owners and drivers to allow over-aged vehicles with faulty brakes or steering, or vehicles whose legally-mandated speed control seals have been intentionally removed, to drive on the road. The word “accident” absolves these parties of any responsibility. As we have seen too many untold times in Bangladesh, those who are responsible for road accidents are rarely if ever brought to justice for their actions. These accidents occur because of willful choices and decisions that result in the damage and loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, and untold suffering to the affected families. Up to this point, these victims have had minimal legal protection or recourse to ensure their safety and rights against the irresponsible actions of the powerful. All attention is turned to the reckless drivers, who sometimes are briefly detained by law enforcers, but inevitably are freed on bail while the criminal cases against them are permanently stalled. However, this year marks the 30th year of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, under which not only drivers, but also vehicle owners and insurers, are liable as responsible parties under Civil Law. Our case is a ground-breaking attempt to bring this long-neglected Law to public notice so that in future, road accident victims and their families may have a means to be legally compensated for their losses. We have used the high profile and precedent-setting nature of this case to bring it to the High Court, where it should receive the importance and attention it deserves. This case will not bring Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier back to this world. However, we hope it will open the way for victims of road accidents to use this same law to demand compensation, in order to pressurize those responsible into making the roads and highways of Bangladesh safer. All over the world, similar laws are being used to bring all responsible parties of road accidents to book. It is time this happens in Bangladesh. It is time that those responsible—not only drivers, but also transport company owners and insurers—are made to feel accountable. So that in future, they will make the kind of decisions that help to save lives, not destroy them.