Hill Voice, 25 September 2019, Rangamati:  The Project: ‘Strengthening the Local Judiciary System in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT)’ under ‘Activating Bangladesh Village Court Project (Phase-II)’ has been inaugurated in Rangamati. The occasion was organized at the Tourism Corporation Auditorium in Rangamati town on 25 September 2019.

Mesbahul Islam, Secretary of Ministry of CHT Affairs graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and the occasion was chaired by Roksana Qader, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative Society.

The personalities attending the occasion were: HE Rensje Teerink, Ambassador of European Union (EU), Sudipta Mukherjee, Bangladesh Residential Representative of UNDP, Chakma Circle Chief Barrister Debasish Roy, Goutam Kumar Chakma, Member of CHT Regional Council, Kongjari Chowdhury, Chairman, Khagrachari Hill District Council, representatives of traditional institutions (Headmen and Karbaris) and representatives of NGOs and civil society.

The message from the UN Office Dhaka conveys that with the assistance of Local Government Department, EU and UNDP under the UN Assistance Program, the ‘Activating Bangladesh Village Courts Project (Phase-II)’ has been inaugurated in CHT in order to enhance the opportunity of having access to justice among the marginalized community people who are deprived of facilities.

Based on successful implementation of Phase-I of the project (2006-2015), the project had its debut in 1080 Unions under tripartite partnership of EU, UNDP and government of Bangladesh. The objective was to enhance opportunity of availing legal services in resolving various disputes among the poor and backward community people of the country.

Now, the project is going to be extended to CHT with additional support of the EU amounting to 4.5 million Euro. At this, the local administration took the necessity of regional-level justice into account and ensured legal assistance of the people deprived of facilities. Through this, it will be possible to empower the general people, especially, the women and marginalized community people. As a result of the extended financial assistance, the quantity out of participation of the EU in the ‘Activating Bangladesh Village Court Project (Phase-II)’ stands 28.3 million Euro.

Mesbahul Islam, Secretary of Ministry of CHT Affairs said in the event that the government has taken up this project to reduce pressure upon the judicial justice system. In the case with CHT, we are doing this in the notion that the project will be supportive to the preservation of customary laws, practices and culture hereof.

The ‘Activating Bangladesh Village Court Project (Phase-II)’ will be conducted all through the coming 4 years in 121 Unions under the three hill districts at own finance through the Local Government Department and with the financial and technical support of EU and UNDP. Through this judicial system, the Village Court will be able to exercise its authority of trying disputes worth of as high as BDT 70,000.

He said: ‘As the way the Village Courts work in the plains, it has a little difference in CHT. Here, in every Mauza, there are Headman and Karbaris who employ their efforts to resolve the village problems at the village level. It is through this project, there will occur a development in the judicial system and in those areas, the village people will get judicial services at less expense and within short period of time.’

The EU Ambassador Rensje Teerink said: ‘In CHT, the role of Village Court is significant for the marginalized and the people deprived of facilities, in ensuring opportunity of justice at low expense and within the speediest time. The EU is always in firm conviction to strengthen the social justice of Bangladesh so that the people deprived of facilities, especially, the poor women can have access to justice and get legal services in resolving their disputes at regional level.

In CHT, since, there exists a different kind of judicial system already. The Headmen and Karbaris resolve the village problems under this system. We will strengthen their system through providing training to them under this project. The capacity enhancement training will be provided to them so as to enable them to judge the problems correctly.’

It is to be mentioned that measure has been undertaken to establish the Village Courts under the Union Parishads in the plain districts. But herein CHT, since the disputes at village level are resolved by the Headmen and Karbaris, hence, the separate Village Courts will not be established in CHT. It has been learnt that assistance will be extended through this project to enhance the capacity of the existing Headmen and Karbaris.