Increase motivation for government lawyers

Publish: 9:50 PM, October 12, 2021 | Update: 9:50:PM, October 12, 2021

According to a credible media report, the incentives are seriously lacking for government’s lawyers such as public prosecutors (PPs), additional PPs and special PPs to appear in courts on behalf of the prosecution with zest because of the pittance they get monetarily as compensation for their work. Incredible as it may seem, the average daily honorarium for them is no more than taka 250. This rate of payment has remained unchanged for the last 33 years. Needless to say, such poor remuneration is at the root of why in many cases these days the state is defeated whereas well known flouters of the law or offenders in serious crimes can manage bail relatively easily or win in the cases against them.

Understandably, the defendants in these cases prove to be more resourceful than the state. They can engage lawyers paying them fees in thousands of taka in contrast to the meagre amount received by their equivalents on the government side. Thus, it should be no wonder that highly motivated by such substantially higher fees these lawyers do much more enthusiastic and dedicated work for their clients that lead their success in these cases. It is hardly necessary to explain that if the PPs of different categories were remunerated equally well, then they could be expected to have the requisite motivation or dedication to be able to put up a proper challenge to the privately engaged pleaders.

The consequences of not having an incentive structure in place for the PPs is creating a great deal of harm. It is frequently mentioned in the media –nowadays– that even some godfather or semi godfather like figures are not having to confront difficulties in walking out of jails in some cases because the PPs were not able to mount a strong enough challenge to their bid for bails. Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina referred to this in a recent statement.

Hundreds of acres of government lands grabbed by private individuals using forged documents, political influence and muscle power are also linked to factors of the government not being able to fight its cases in courts effectively. The lands are ultimately lost to the government because the PPs virtually act in a manner tantamount to giving a walkover to the other side for the same reason of being under motivated.

Bangladesh is a country where land is in short supply. Every effort needs to made, therefore, to conserve land or to ensure its best possible utilization. Specially, government owned lands are required to be kept free from squatters and grabbers.

Government’s lands form a particularly valuable asset. All sorts of demand for the quick implementation of important projects can be met from the availability of such lands. For example, during summer several years ago when a severe crisis of water gripped Dhaka city and some areas were found to be very inadequately supplied, the need arose to set up some underground water pumping plants in these places for emergency lifting and supplying of water.

But these plans suffered as suitable government lands could not be found in these areas. The ones that were there remained under different kinds of illegal occupation by their private occupiers and tangled by legal hurdles in evicting them. From distribution of lands to the landless cultivators to even finding lands for the establishment of power generating plants that the country badly needs, the establishment of all sorts of public utilities are getting hampered from the usurpation of governmental lands. Buying land from private owners some of whom many not be willing also to be so dispossessed involve greater costs in time and money for the government as progress of high priority public projects stagnate as a result. Thus, seen from any perspective, the retention of government’s possession over its lands, ought to be seen as a very important issue.

But this vital matter of concern appears to be poorly addressed at the moment. It has continued to be an easy practice for a long time for locally powerful individuals to establish their control over government’s lands all over the country. They usually occupy the lands and set up their various enterprises in the grabbed lands. There are vast areas in Dhaka city, for instance, where individuals with money, influence and connections both to the underworld and the ruling political parties, had grabbed government’s lands .

Rice mills, saw mills, bustees (shanty dwellings), small businesses, etc., have been established in such lands and their unlawful possessors are deriving every financial benefit from either running them directly or from getting rents. They have also succeeded in tampering with land records to be able to lay legal claims also over these lands.

Typically, government’s reaction is to start a case against such grabbers. But the process gets bogged up in the extremely tedious legal procedures experienced in this country. Besides, and more significantly, government represents itself in these cases through its lawyers who are very poorly paid in contrast to the grabbers who pay lucrative fees to their lawyers and sometimes even ensure the inactivity of government’s lawyers through underhand bribing. Government’s pleaders are sometimes seen not even coming to courts during hearing and the occupiers, thus, are able to get one sided verdict in their favour.

From the continuation of this most unacceptable neglect, government has already lost its claim over thousands of acres of land properties and would suffer more losses in the future. Very urgent actions are necessary to check and reverse this trend. Government must create real incentives or motivation for its legal practitioners to defend government’s properties through substantially and appropriately increasing their fees and other benefits.

A truly efficient and accountable system must be laid to ensure that they do their work with sincerity and it becomes impossible for anyone to so easily to lay hands on public properties and consolidate the usurpation. It is expertly suggested that the per day compensation of PPs should be increased ten to twelve times from the current rate along with creation of some perks and additional financial benefits for them to pull up their motivation and interest in their work to the desired level . While increasing such payments to them, upward rise in the judicial services for them need to be linked to the rate of their successful prosecution in their present positions.