Bangladesh is transforming from a democratic country into a bureaucratic one and common people are being humiliated and punished arbitrarily during the pandemic, said Professor Dr Mizanur Rahman – who teaches law at the University of Dhaka.
He made the remarks on Wednesday at a virtual seminar on "Fines and Penalties During the Pandemic: Effectiveness and Challenges" jointly organised by the Bangladesh Peace Observatory (BPO) and the Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS) of the University of Dhaka.
"The government has fined and jailed common people for violating the shutdown rules. However, the people never understood the meaning of the shutdown. It seemed like general holidays to them," said Professor Mizanur, also a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.
He said the state failed to make the general public properly aware, thus breaching its responsibility, but strictly implemented the law against them.
He questioned the quality of the 2018 Communicable Diseases (Control, Prevention and Eradication) Act which was used to discipline people during the shutdown.
"It failed to avail all the seven recommendations of a law: attractiveness, clarity, consistency, credibility, persuasiveness, relevance, and trustworthiness," added the law professor.
Professor Dr ASM Ali Ashraf, of international relations at the same university, presented the keynote at the seminar.
In his presentation, Dr Ashraf mentioned that 619 individuals were arrested, while 12,543 people were fined or handed other punishments. The highest number of cases were filed in April.
Most of the charges against the general public were for not wearing masks and for violating social distancing rules.
Offences committed by businessmen and political persons were for: embezzling relief goods, selling health safety gear at high prices, making counterfeit health safety products, and selling relief goods.
Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, director of the Center for Genocide Studies conducted the programme.