The High Court yesterday cleared the way for Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) to collect information about residents of the area under its jurisdiction.
An HC bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir rejected a petition seeking an order to stop the collection of information about landlords and tenants by the DMP.
It said the DMP was allowed to take any step under DMP rules and regulations, 2006 to prevent terrorism and militant activities in the city.
There is no legal bar now to the collection of information from landlords and tenants in the DMP area following the HC order, Deputy Attorney General Motaher Hossain Sazu told The Daily Star.
Petitioner's lawyer Jotirmoy Barua said he would move an appeal before the Supreme Court, challenging the HC order.
The DMP on February 29 announced that it had been collecting “identification information” about landlords and tenants since November last year and asked all to provide such information by March 15.
Jotirmoy, a residence of Dhaka, submitted the writ petition on March 3 to the HC, seeking an order to stop the process. He also appealed to the court to ask the authorities concerned to preserve those information already collected and not to use those until a specific law is formulated to this effect.
There is no legal basis for seeking such information, he said, terming it a "violation" of rights to privacy.
Meanwhile, lawyers and rights activists expressed skepticism about how the information would be used to the advantage of city dwellers.
“Despite today's ruling by the court, I feel that collection of the information without sanction of a law is a violation of citizens' rights under article-43 of the constitution,” said eminent lawyer Shahdeen Malik.
Police do not have the means to transform the huge volume of information into a database, he said.
“It is difficult to see how this information can be meaningfully used.”
There are real apprehensions that the information could be misused and abused, Malik said.
Rights activist barrister Sara Hossain said the existing laws of the country do not ensure protection of data and information.
“It is a matter of great apprehension that personal information would be at the risk of being leaked and ending up at any quarter.”
Sara also observed that police had already been enjoying a lot of power and that there were instances when some members of the force harassed people, abusing their power.
Talking to journalists at the DMP media centre yesterday, DMP Additional Commissioner Monirul Islam said there were scopes for legal action against those who would not provide their information to DMP officials.
“But since we are doing this to ensure people's security, we hope they would willingly comply,” he added.
It would take about six months to develop a database with the information, he said, adding that until the database and software were developed, hard copies of the information would be preserved by police.