Mrs. Salma Begum, aged 42, a cleaner of the First Court of Settlement of Dhaka, has been working in her job for around 20 years.
Salma alleged that she was molested by a judge Mr. Mohammad Yasin, the Chairman of the First Court of Settlement.
She said that On 23 February 2011while she was cleaning the office room of the Chairman of the First Court of Settlement of Dhaka at Shegunbagicha she was molested by the judge.
On February 23th, at around 9:20 am, when she started sweeping the floor of the official chamber room of the Chairman suddenly a man embraced her from behind. When she turns around her face she saw Mr. Mohammad Yasin, the Chairman of the First Court of Settlement, smiling at her as he continued to hug her said Salma
She got scared and immediately shouted for help while Mr. Yasin told that he was “kidding”. A personal assistant of the judge Mr. Jafar Ahmed came to the scene from his office room adjacent to the judge’s chamber hearing Salma’s loud cries for help.
At this point the Judge, Mr. Yasin allegedly asked Jafar to expel Salma by saying, “Hold the neck of this woman and throw her out!” Salma came out the judge’s room crying.
Eye-witnesses wishing to remain unidentified said that they saw Salma shivering and upset as well as very much humiliated and traumatized immediately after the incident.
Afterwards three members of the Court of Settlement including Mr. Mohammad Yasin, Chairman, Ms. Fahmida Quader, Member (Judiciary) and also an Additional District Judge, and Mr. Arun Kumar Malakar, Member (Administration) also a Deputy Secretary, held a closed door meeting for few hours. Ms. Fahmida and Mr. Arun later called Salma and allegedly rebuked her saying that she (Salma) made a false allegation against the judge. Both Fahmida and Arun allegedly intimidated Salma asking her to keep her mouth shut and said that there will be “medical examination” done to justify her allegation.
When almost all the staff of the Court of Settlement came to know about the incident from one another Mr. Yasin and his colleagues called the police. Accordingly, a group of around five armed policemen arrived at the court area. The police were led by an officer of the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police who stayed in the office room of the Chairman of the Court of Settlement until, around 9pm, the judge Mr. Yasin left his office, unusually. Moreover, a number of senior officers also visited the office allegedly in favour of the judge, who called his friends from high-ranking governmental positions throughout the whole day.
On 24 February, Judge Mr. Mohammad Yasin reportedly went to the Bangladesh Secretariat where he met the Secretary-in-charge of the Ministry of Housing and Works Dr. Khandker Showkat Hossain and Joint Secretary (Development) Mr. Zillar Rahman in order to influence the administration to terminate Salma from her job. Later, on the same day, Salma submitted a petition to the Secretary of the Ministry of Establishment seeking justice for the incident.
Salma alleges that Judge Mr. Mohammad Yasin has threatened that he will make sure that she is dismissed from her job by saying that he has lots of influential friends in the bureaucracy to see how far she can reach to save her job. She is now afraid of losing her job because of the unsavory and unacceptable behaviour of a judge.
Advocate Shamim Ara Shume said that the allegation is related to two persons who have unequal hierarchical official status, and with in adversarial legal system of Bangladesh it will be hard to bring forth witness on favor of the victim.
She said the woman who is victimized by a judge is very unfortunate. The judge seems to deliver justice but here the judge becomes the tools of injustice.
She also stressed that a district Judge, has enormous power to exercise and cast influence upon a petty fourth class employee.
Advocate Shamim Ara Shume said the victim is in an imbalanced and unequal battle for re-establishing her dignity and self-esteem.
She said as a human rights activist and lawyer I urged to authorities for impartial investigation of the case. It’s an ethical and moral – responsibilities as well as constitutional obligations to remain unbiased for the sake of protecting the human dignity of a woman in this case, and protecting the ethical standards for the judicial officers as a whole to wipe out judicial garbage, whenever there are similar allegations.
She said the government should create a platform of justice in this case other wise people will loose their faith in judiciary.
Advocate Shamim Ara Shume said I am concern about the victim and the victim need right counseling and mental support as she is going through mental trauma.
AHRC wrote a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on violence against women and Independence of Judges and Lawyers calling for their intervention into this matter.