Prominent journalist Mozammel Hossain Montu died after sustaining severe injuries in a road accident in 1989. Thirty-three years on, his family is yet to receive compensation for the unnatural death despite a long legal battle.
In mid-2014, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of penalising the offender, a lorry belonging to the Bangladesh Beverage Industries Limited, with Tk3.52 crore over the accident that took place in the capital's Shantinagar area. The verdict was the very first of its kind in the country.
"Montu's wife Rawshan Ara is now 70. His two children are also in their middle ages. They are still fighting to get the compensation money," said Zillur Rahman, the lawyer for Rawshan.
"In 1991, a lower court fined the beverage company Tk3.52 crore in the case and the Supreme Court also upheld the order. Later, the amount was reduced to Tk1.69 crore in order to ensure implementation. However, some complexities still exist in the matter of receiving the money," he told The Business Standard.
Montu served as news editor at the Daily Sangbad. His family had to file another lawsuit to recover the compensation money. The court then ordered the sale of a plot of land of the company in an auction.
Unfortunately, the compensation has remained elusive as the land-related document was kept at a bank as a mortgage against the company's loan.
"Where is our rule of law? Can I receive the money before my death?" Rawshan asked.
The families of other such victims – Titumir College student Razib Hossain, filmmaker Tareque Masud, journalist Mishuk Munier and hundreds more – have been locked in legal battles for years to get compensation over losing their loved ones.
Meanwhile, accidents mostly resulting from drivers' mad races on roads have not stopped. A teenager was crushed to death between two buses at Mogbazar in the capital on Thursday as the drivers of three Gazipur-bound Ajmeri Paribahan buses were recklessly driving to overtake one another. Police seized the buses but the drivers fled the scene.
Supreme Court lawyer Ainun Nahar Siddiqi, who is working on such cases, told TBS that there were two laws – the British-enacted Tort law, and the Road Transport Act – related to claiming compensation against any unnatural death on roads.
"However, there are systematic complexities over realising compensation," the lawyer added.
In the Razib Hossain case, the court in May 2018 ordered a payment of Tk1 crore. But his family is yet to receive the money.
Razib's death, 13 days after he lost his hand in an accident caused by two reckless buses trying to overtake one another at Karwan Bazar, sparked wide criticism about the "faulty" traffic system of the capital.
"Sajal Paribahan and the BRTC were ordered to pay Tk25 lakh each in compensation, while the government was supposed to pay TK50 lakh. We did not get the money," said Jahanara Parveen, aunt of victim Razib.
"We have nothing in hand if Supreme Court orders are being ignored," she told The Business Standard.
In the Tareque-Mishuk case, the court decreed a fine of Tk4.61 crore in compensation to the families. Their chances of getting the money are still uncertain.
However, the country saw three exceptional cases in the last couple of years. Private car driver Rassel, who lost one of his legs in an accident with a Green Line bus, received Tk33.5 lakh in compensation. Although initially the court fined Tk50 lakh, the amount was later reduced on the request of the offender.
The families of college students Abdul Karim Razib and Dia Khanam Mim, who died in road accidents in the capital's Banani, also received compensation.
Ilias Kanchan, chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai Andolon, believes that victims' families not receiving compensation despite court verdicts is very degrading even for the courts.
"We should take a tough stand against such irregularities," the prominent film actor urged all, including the media.
"The opportunity to escape penalty will encourage people more to commit crimes," he told The Business Standard.