The government on Thursday approved an ordinance to introduce court proceedings via videoconferencing and other means amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The cabinet gave its final approval to the 2020 ordinance on the use of information technology by courts at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said Cabinet Secretary KhandkerAnwarul Islam at a press briefing
Under the existing law, trial proceedings are conducted in the physical presence of judges, counsels and witnesses in court.
But now, the cabinet secretary said, courts cannot proceed with trials and ensure the physical presence of the parties due to risks of coronavirus infection.
"Since the courts have been closed for a long time, the backlog of cases is on the rise and the litigants are also being deprived of legal services. So, it is essential to conduct trial proceedings through videoconferencing and other digital means in the interest of overcoming this situation and continuing with judicial activities," the cabinet secretary added.
The cabinet secretary said once the ordinance is effective (after promulgation by the President), it will be possible for judges to conduct trial proceedings of the cases through videoconferences and other digital means, keeping the accused in jails, the lawyers in their residences and the witnesses in other places during the coronavirus crisis.
The law ministry brought in an ordinance instead of a bill as Parliament is not in session now. Once Parliament goes for its next session, the ordinance will be placed in the House for lawmakers' approval.
The cabinet also gave final approval to "The Value Added Tax and Supplementary Duty (Amendment) Act, 2020" and "The Income Tax Amendment Ordinance, 2020" at the meeting.
The cabinet secretary said all businesses need to submit their returns within the 15th of next month, according to the law on Value Added Tax and Supplementary Duty.
"Due to The Covid-19 situation, many have failed to submit the returns. As it is an extraordinary situation,the laws are being changed. The NBR now can exempt fines and extend the time frame with the approval of the government," said the cabinet secretary.
The Income Tax Amendment Ordinance is also almost the same, where the NBR has been empowered to go for a time expansion.
The cabinet secretary also noted that the cabinet had urged citizens to be careful in their movements.
"If citizens do not cooperate, it will be impossible to roll back coronavirus infections," he added.
The Cabinet meeting took place a month after the last one, which was held on April 6.
A small number of cabinet members, including Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq attended the meeting. ***