Case Title: S. M. Masud Hossain Dolon and others Vs. Government of Bangladesh and others
Citation: 2017 (1) LNJ 317
Judge: Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury. J.
Case No: Writ Petition No. 8252 of 2015
The case starts with filing of a writ petition on August 9, 2015 by some SC Advocates. They submitted report of newspaper on the effects of carrying heavy schoolbags by students and asked for Court’s Rule and direction for formulating new law in this respect.
Upon such petition, the HCD, issuing a Rule, asked the concerned authorities as to why the Court should not direct the Government for making a new law on prohibition of carrying schoolbags which is more than 10 percent of a student’s weight.
“the Court directed to enact a specific law prohibiting use of school bags more than 10% of bodily weight within a period of 6 (six) months. And as an interim measure, the Court further directed the respondent No 3 to issue fresh circular forming a monitoring cell and providing punitive measures in case of non-compliance until the specific law is enacted.”
Firstly, the petitioners contended in the Court that this matter is concerned with public wrong or public injury and also being conscious fathers of school going children they have acquired right to seek remedy before the court under Article 102 of Bangladesh Constitution.
Then the petitioners said that most of the pupils of the country are carrying heavy school bags and as a result they are facing various health hazards like irreversible health problem. They have to carry bag with heavy books, guides, sports kit and lunchboxes. Some of them carry 10% of their body weight, some of them carry 15% and even some carry 20% of their bodily weight.
In Bangladesh, the Directorate of Education makes the syllabi for classes. But different schools or their authorities add extra subjects in the syllabi for their respective students. Such autocracy of the school authorities is also worsening the situation badly.
The petitioners submitted some foreign documents in support of their argument. At first “The Children School Bag Bill,2006” of the Indian Rajya Sabha which suggests for no bag for the kindergarten children and for the older children it suggested bags not heavier than 10% of body weight. The petitioners also submitted a circular of Directorate of Education, Delhi, India that also suggested for reduction of weight of school bags. Furthermore, the petitioners submitted some guidelines made by Education Bureau, Hong Kong considering the effects of overweight school bags.
Learned advocate for the petitioners Mr. Mohammad Ziaul Haque showed two foreign write-ups in the Court. One is “Burden of the School Bag: Is anybody listening?” written by an Assistant Professor of India and the other write-up is “Back Problems Due to Heavy Backpacks in School Children” written jointly by Research Scholar & an Assistant Professor from India.
Petitioners submitted some other documents or write-ups which were included as below:
Annexure ‘A’: – It’s a published write-up in the Daily Prothom Alo naming “স্কুলের ব্যাগটা বড্ড ভারী”.
Annexure ‘B’: – It’s a write-up downloaded from the Internet titled as “The ill-effects of carrying heavy schoolbags”. Some material portion of this write-up was quoted in the Court which necessarily included some useful suggestions by one Dr. Smarajit Chakrabarty from India.
Annexure ‘C’: – It’s also a write-up published in the Daily Prothom Alo captioned as “ভারী স্কুল ব্যাগ বহন করতে পারবে না মহারাষ্ট্রের শিশুরা”.
Annexure ‘D’: – It’s a news published in an online newspaper namely, Banglanews24.com under the heading “নির্ধারিত বোর্ড বই নিয়ে শিশুদের স্কুলে যাওয়ার আহবান” dated 30-07-2015 which contains news of discussion in the National Parliament of Bangladesh on this issue. One member of the Parliament naming Ms. Nurjahan Begum expressed her opinion about ill-effects of heavy school bags with whom the then Minister of Education Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid agreed at that time.
Annexure ‘E’: – It’s a collection of some guidelines for reducing the weight of school bags for children issued by the Education Bureau of Hong Kong.
Contending all these, the petitioners said “forcing the children to carry heavy school books is a violation of human rights” and thereby argued that “the respondents are duty bound to enact a specific law for school bag weight.” If no criteria for school bag weight is set out, immense health complications of children cannot be checked or stopped.
On the contrary, the respondents contested by submitting an affidavit-in-opposition where they claimed that “they are always engaged in protecting the people’s interest as well as the rights of the children.” Advocate of the respondent No. 3 (Directorate General of Primary Education) showed in the Court that his client issued a circular on 11-12-2014 prohibiting the use of school bags more than 10% of body weight in all Government & Non-Government Primary Schools of Bangladesh. The learned Deputy Attorney General (DAG) conceded various health hazards arising out of carrying heavy school bags and also agreed on complying any directives as the Court may give in this regard.
The Court heard the counsels of both petitioners and respondents. It was held that to cope up with such a serious issue, the authorities concerned had failed to take any concrete or tangible step. Although the respondent issued a circular but it was not sufficient as there was no direction as to what would be the punitive measures in case of non-complying with that circular. The Court found it as a matter of ‘paramount importance’ and termed that circular as ‘sketchy and incomplete’ one because of its failure of having any effect upon the primary school authorities.
The Court considered the matter of bearing bags of more than 10% of bodily weight as cruel treatment and as ‘manifest violation of Article 35(5) of Constitution’ and also as violation of human rights.
The Court also found a lacuna of specific law in this respect. Therefore, making the Rule absolute, the Court directed to enact a specific law prohibiting use of school bags more than 10% of bodily weight within a period of 6 (six) months. And as an interim measure, the Court further directed the respondent No 3 to issue fresh circular forming a monitoring cell and providing punitive measures in case of non-compliance until the specific law is enacted.
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