Ill- suited or well – suited?
Training institute plays a very important role in shaping an officer for the desired standard of the post. Although it is commonly said that there is no substitute to training, this has got significant bearing, writes Ikteder Ahmed
In the modern world, amongst three organs of the State, the judiciary is regarded as one of the most important ones. Like Bangladesh, in most of the countries of the world, the judiciary is divided into two parts i.e. upper judiciary and subordinate judiciary. Upper judiciary of Bangladesh consists of two divisions, viz. Appellate Division and High Court Division of the Supreme Court while the Subordinate Judiciary includes Courts of District and Sessions Judge, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Joint District and Assistant Sessions Judge and Assistant Judge. Besides, Magistrates exercising judicial functions are also members of the subordinate judiciary. The members of the subordinate judiciary including magistrates belong to a service called Bangladesh Judicial Service.
In Bangladesh almost all cadre services have their own training institutes, firstly for organizing foundation training course and secondly for in-service training of the officers of cadre concerned. So far, there was no training institute for the officers of erstwhile Bangladesh Civil Service (Judicial) cadre, subsequently renamed as Bangladesh Judicial Service, although it was a long felt demand of the Judges of different tiers working in the subordinate judiciary. Earlier while Justice Abdul Quddus Chowdhury was Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, he took pragmatic steps to set up judicial training institute for imparting training to the judges, but in every step he faced opposition from a particular quarter. At one stage he wanted to materialize this by sparing the money allotted to the courts in each year for the purchase of books but this noble gesture of his could not shake the conscience of that quarter either.
After the changeover of government in 1990, through mass upsurge, upper hand of that quarter was affected to some extent. The Judicial Administration Training Institute Act was passed by the Parliament in 1995 and it came into effect on 23rd March 1995. Thereafter for about more than a year no step was taken for starting activities of the institute. It was July 1996, a retired judge of the Supreme Court Justice Md. Badruzzaman was appointed as Director General of the institute to start activities of the institute but he could do little until a director joined in the institute in September 1996. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was the first director of this institute and after my appointment, the first task was ahead of me was to procure furniture and equipments for the institute, prepare curriculum for starting training to be imparted by the institute and make arrangements for formal inauguration of the institute.
At the time when I joined as the director, a portion of a dilapidated building named Old High Court Building was allotted to the institute for starting activities of the institute. So I had to sit with officials of different ministries for carrying out necessary repair works, both civil and electrical, while also furnishing the building with all required facilities.
The building which was allotted to the Judicial Administration Training Institute is a very prestigious one. It was built in 1905 to house the then Lieutenant Governor of the East Bengal, who stayed in this building till the annulment of Bengal in 1911. During the Second World War, this building was the headquarters of the British Forces in the East Bengal and for some time it was used as the Dhaka College. After emergence of Pakistan and India, East Pakistan was made a province of Pakistan and then necessity arose to establish a separate High Court for East Pakistan. As at that time other than this building no other building was readily available to house the High Court of East Pakistan, the then policy makers decided to start functioning of the Provincial High Court in this prestigious building. The activities of the High Court of East Pakistan continued in this building until 1968, when a new building was constructed to the adjacent north of this building. After creation of Bangladesh, the building was allotted to the defense ministry and till 1990 it was used as defense ministry. Until occupied by the Judicial Administration Training Institute in 1996, the building was vacant and there was only a caretaker to look after it. In a span of more than a century, from time to time different authorities had the occasions to use this building but since 1947, in spite of change of users, it has been used under the name Old High Court Building.
While the affairs of the State were being managed by caretaker government in 1996, at that time Barrister Ishtiahaq Ahmed was Adviser-in-Charge of Ministry of Law and Justice and during his time the process of functioning of the institute began and that process gained momentum in the hand of previous Law Minister Mr. Abdul Matin Khasru.
The Judicial Administration Training Institute has been set up to enhance professional competence of judges and thereby improve the judicial efficiency and judicial administration. There is no denying that proper orientation and training of judicial officers and court personnel and their continuing professional education during service are steps necessary to improve quality of justice administered in the courts.
The functions of the Judicial Administration Training Institute cover to arrange training programs for the trainees of home and abroad. Arrangement of workshop, seminar and symposium for bringing about qualitative change in the court management and judicial system also falls within the ambit of the functions of the institute.
The Judicial Administration Training Institute was formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister on 1st March, 1996. At the time of inauguration of this institute I took an initiative to publish a souvenir for making the inauguration significant. The souvenir was enriched with the messages from the then Prime Minister, Head of the Judiciary, Law Minister, Law Secretary, etc. Under the Act of the institute there is a board of management and the Head of the Judiciary of Bangladesh is the Chairman of the Board of Management. All the dignitaries except the then Head of the Judiciary, in their messages welcomed the institute, wishing for its success. But the then Head of the Judiciary, in an unprecedented manner, and also to the utter surprise of all, stated in his message that “Judicial officers from subordinate courts (on deputation) are ill-suited for the works of this institute which is meant for their training”.
Since establishment of the institute, it has so far organized about 150 training courses which include judges of all tires of subordinate judiciary, public prosecutors, government pleaders, court support staff, etc. All the faculty members of this institute ranging from Assistant Directors to Directors are officers of the subordinate judiciary on deputation. In all the training courses, quite a good number of sessions are conducted by the faculty members of this institute. So it was the single persons evaluation that judicial officers from subordinate courts (on departure) are ill-suited for the works of the institute but it is evaluation of all other persons associated with this institute that judicial officers are well suited for the works of this institute which is meant for their training.
In designing training of any institute for any particular group, development of effective training methodology and curriculum are of utmost importance. Although the faculty members of this institute put their all out efforts for achieving that end, for bringing about more perfection the institute entered into an agreement with Dr. Madhava Menon, a famous jurist of India, to develop the curriculum of this institute. He duly finished his task.
For running different training courses, each year the institute receives an amount of money by which the institute can organize eight training courses of about 3-4 weeks duration in a year. Besides government allocation if any response is received from any donor agency, the institute has plans to undertake extensive training program for judges of all tiers and the officials serving in the judiciary which, it is believed, would remove lacking of an official if there be any. In addition to that, training of the institute would help to groom up a judge with perfection which will have a far reaching effect on the overall judicial administration.
Training institute plays a very important role in shaping an officer for the desired standard of the post. Although it is commonly said that there is no substitute to training, this has got significant bearing. A topic which an officer would assimilate after having studied for a week would easily be made comprehendible to him by a single deliberation, provided that the resource person is chosen from a group with good legal background. As long as the Judicial Training Institute is concerned, well formulated criterion have been set out for resource persons, which include persons with legal acumen.
A training institute is not only meant for imparting bookish knowledge. The aspect of physical state of the persons who would come to the institute for training is also an important factor. Unless a person is physically sound, whatever training may be imparted to him would not necessarily serve the purpose. So, when in any training institute the facilities of indoors and out door games are absent, it cannot be considered full-fledged.
The Judicial Administration Training Institute was temporally housed in the Old High Court Building. For this training institute the government allocated 0.69 acre of land in 15 College Road to the east of prestigious Curzon Hall and South of the Bangladesh Secretariat. To support the infrastructural development of this institute, the World Bank provided a fund of about two million dollars for the construction of a building over the proposed site. Danida, a Danish development partner, entered into an agreement to supply logistics for the newly constructed institute and also to work for the development of modern curriculum. The new building of the institute will be 10 storied but utilizing World Bank fund and GOB allocation so far up to 6 stories have been constructed, which has paved the way to organize training programme throughout the year with the facilities to accommodate the trainees in the institute building. Most of the judges while in service seldom get an opportunity to undergo any training course abroad. Judicial Administration Training Institute, although meant for providing training to the persons employed in the judicial service, law officers of the Government, advocates enlisted by the Bar Council and officers as well as staff of the subordinate courts, after completion of the task carried out with the funds provided by World Bank and Danida, is going to lay foundation to organize training courses for judges of different SAARC countries together with the judges of Bangladesh. When that program will be materialized, it will create a new avenue to foster bond of cooperation and friendship amongst judges of this region. Judicial officers, once termed ill-suited after successfully organizing about 150 training courses, are now working in the institute relentlessly so that it could be place of union not only for the judges of Bangladesh but also for the judges of this region. By this time, in the estimation of all concerned, the judicial officers have proved themselves well- suited. Now only time will tell who is ill-suited.
The author is former Judge and former Registrar at the Supreme Court.
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