Five years have elapsed since the tragic Rana Plaza building collapse, but there is no major progress in the proceedings of the two cases filed over the country’s deadliest industrial disaster.
The wait for justice is not going to be over anytime soon, as the trial in one of the two cases filed on charges of killing of more than 1,000 people has not begun yet.
Another case filed on charges of the violation of building codes in the construction of the nine-storey Rana Plaza is facing a similar fate.
The shoddily constructed commercial building came crashing down on the morning of April 24, 2013, leaving 1,136 people dead and injuring 1,169 more at Savar, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
In June 2015, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) submitted two separate charge sheets -- one for murder and the other for building code violation against 42 accused including building owner Sohel Rana.
Rana, his parents---Abdul Khaleque and Morjina Begum---- and 34 others were charged with causing the death of the workers while four others were accused of sheltering Rana and helping him flee.
In 2016, two separate Dhaka courts framed charges against 42 accused including Sohel Rana and his parents in two cases. Following the charge framing, the trial was supposed to begin on September 18, 2016.
But the trial was is yet to begin as the proceedings against seven accused were earlier stayed by the High Court following writs challenging the legality of the order for framing charges against them in the murder case.
There are also allegations that the prosecution lawyers are not taking any pro-active measures to address the HC stay order and that they are not cordial to complete the trial.
However, refusing the negligence, Public Prosecutor (PP) Khandaker Abdul Mannan said the start of recording of depositions is being delayed due to legal complexities.
The state lawyer said High Court stayed the trial proceedings against seven accused in the case, adding "We are now waiting for suggestions from the attorney general for conducting the trial against rest of the accused in the case."
Sohel Rana’s lawyer Faruk Ahamed said, “We also want the trial to start, but it remains stuck due to legal complexities and the negligence of the prosecution.”
Of the two cases, the murder case is pending with the court of Judge SM Kuddus Zaman of Dhaka District and Sessions Judges court for the start of recording the testimony of witnesses.
On July 18, 2016, the court framed charges against 41 accused including Sohel Rana in the case.
The court later fixed 11 dates for recording depositions but it failed to do it due to time petitions of prosecution and defence lawyers on various grounds.
In the case filed over violation of building codes in the construction of Rana Plaza, Dhaka Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate court on June 14, 2016, framed charges against Rana and 17 others.
But the trial could not proceed as several revisions challenging the order for framing charges were pending with two session courts in Dhaka.
Meanwhile, most of the accused are now enjoying free life after taking bail from the courts. Of the accused, seven accused are on the run, two accused died while only Sohel Rana is now in jail and rest of the accused including Rana’s parents were freed on bail.
Legal experts said completing the trial in time will be very difficult if the prosecution does not take any special initiative for disposal of the cases as a total of 724 people have been made as witnesses in the cases.
Meanwhile, different right bodies, workers organisations and leftist political parties will observe the tragedy’s 5th anniversary today.
The families of the victims and survivors are still living a life of misery uncertainty.
According to the latest survey of ActionAid Bangladesh, 12 percent survivors said their condition is getting worse, 70.5 percent are more or less stable and 17.5 percent are completely stable.
Of the 12 percent survivors who reported in the current survey that their condition is deteriorating, listed headache, pain in hands and legs, back pain as some of the major issues they are facing.
The trend of previous surveys shows that physical health status of the survivors is slowly improving and in some cases, is completely stable.
In terms of psychosocial health, 22.5 percent are still in trauma in comparison to 30.8 percent survivors last year. Currently, 63 percent reported that they are more or less stable and 14.5 percent have recovered fully.
The follow-up survey finds that 51.3 percent survivors are engaged in various types of wage and self-employment while 48.7 percent survivors of Rana Plaza collapse are not working.