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ASK v. Government of Bangladesh

Supreme Court of Bangladesh Writ No. 3034 of 1999

Keywords:  civil/policital rights, right to livelihood, Bangladesh, national court, constitutional law, availability

The inhabitants of a large number of informal settlements in Dhaka City were evicted without notice and their homes were demolished by bulldozers.  Two inhabitants and three NGOs lodged a complaint.

Referring to the decision of the Supreme Court of India in Olga Tellis v BMC , the Supreme Court found that the right to livelihood could be derived from constitutional fundamental rights, including the rights to life, respect for dignity and equal protection of the law.

The Court held that the State must direct its policy towards ensuring the provision of the basic necessities of life, including shelter, a directive principle enshrined in the Constitution (Article 15).  While such directive principles are not judicially enforceable, the Court held that the right to life included the right not to be deprived of a livelihood and shelter. 

The Court ordered the government to develop master guidelines or pilot projects for the resettlement of the slum dwellers.  A plan to evict slum dwellers should provide for evictions to occur in phases, according to a person’s ability to find alternative accommodation, and reasonable time should be provided before the eviction.

Right to education relevance – If actions of the government lead to closing of schools or discrimination in the provision of education, it might be possible to present to a Bangladeshi court the notion that the right to livelihood and therefore to life is being eroded.

See the cases on availability of education which, in the main, relate to the closing of schools.

Note - other courts might not be prepared to interpret the right to livelihood in this way, as it seems the Bangladeshi court would. However, as can be seen in this case, it is worth presenting the judicial decisions in another country or region to the court you are applying to, as it is possible for courts to consider decisions of other courts as interpreting tools, even if not bound by them. 

For further information on interpreting tools please consult the relevant pages of our site (which can be accessed here).