Author: A.B.M. Nasirud Doulah
Law Firm: Doulah & Doulah (www.doulah.net) - D&D is a Partnership Law Firm under registration number 27074 operating since 1965. The firm has top-ranked transactional capabilities complemented by a strong litigation practice and offers market leading practice in the areas of Commercial, Corporate, Banking, Finance, Power, IP & TMT law.
Overview of legal measures as of July 20, 2020 as response to the coronavirus. Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast.
Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the 8th most populous country in the world, with a population exceeding 162 million people. In terms of land mass, Bangladesh ranks 92nd spanning 147,570 square kilometres (56,980 sq mi), making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Bangladesh shares land borders with India to the west, north, and east, Myanmar to the southeast, and the Bay of Bengal to the south. Dhaka, the capital and largest city, is the nation's economic, political and cultural hub. Chittagong, the largest sea port, is the second-largest city.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus was confirmed to have spread to Bangladesh in March 2020. The first three known cases were reported on 8 March 2020 by the country's epidemiology institute, IEDCR. Infections remained low until the end of March but saw a steep rise in April. In the week ending on 11 April, new cases in Bangladesh grew by 1,155 percent, the highest in Asia, ahead of Indonesia, with 186 percent. As of 20th July 2020, there have been a total of 221,178 confirmed cases in the country, with 122,090 recoveries and 2,874 deaths. The capital city of Dhaka is currently the most affected district.
The Government of Bangladesh has announced a USD8.686 billion economic relief package to help support businesses in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Of this, USD595 has be allotted for assistance towards salaries and funding of 2 year loans to factory owners at 2% interest, USD8 billion has been planned to implement in immediate, short and long phases through four programs (increasing public expenditure, formulating a stimulus package, widening social safety net coverage and increasing monetary supply), and direct cash assistance of approx. USD91 million for informal sector workers; with smaller packages of health insurance of BDT 5-10 lakh for health workers (doctors, nurses and others) and bankers in case of COVID-19 infected and BDT 25-50 lakh in case of death, total fund allocated BDT7.5bn (approx. USD89mn); special honorarium BDT 1bn (approx. USD12mn) allocated for bankers, health workers and others. These measures although well intended continue to have deliverable problems. The biggest hurdle in the fight against the novell coronavirus (Covid-19) has been increasing disconnect between the Government and the Local Governments all of which remains subject to constant (and rapid) change. As stated above, the legislation and government measures continue to move very fast and the information on this page relative to Bangladesh up to date as at 20 July 2020.
This page provides a selection of the key measures taken by the Government to help businesses deal with the economic and business fallout of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and reflects the law in force as of 20 July 2020.
1. INTERVENTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
1.1 The Government
National Action Plan
The government has been taking various measures to contain the fallout from the pandemic, including the stimulus packages (Tk 1 trillion, equivalent to 3.6 percent of GDP) and its ongoing safety net and relief programmes. However, since the pandemic will not fade out in the near foreseeable future, there is a need for a National Action Plan for three years, which still short of formulation. The Government is considering to release a first National Action Plan with two broad goals: (1) ensure healthy lives, and (2) ensure livelihood by bringing the economy back to its pre-crisis level in a phased-in manner. The Plan shall involve all relevant government agencies and other concerned stakeholders; focus on six critical areas relating to health and economic well-being ; and have time-bound measurable targets, clearly defined roles and responsibilities of different implementing agencies, as well as a monitoring framework to track the performance of the Plan.
The immediate priority is to contain the fallout from the pandemic by enhancing the capacity and resources of the health sector to reduce the spread of the virus. Economic policies are being formulated to protect against the impact of the decline in economic activity, and ensure that soon after the pandemic starts receding, the process of economic recovery can begin in a phased-in manner with due regard given to health safety standards. Economic policies to include targeted monetary, fiscal and financial market measures to support affected households and business establishments.
1.2 Bangladesh Bank, The Central Bank of Bangladesh
The central bank of Bangladesh i.e. Bangladesh Bank (“BB”) has taken a number of fast and robust action to respond to the unfolding Coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. The BB has announced moratorium on loan payments until 30 September 2020 and that such borrowers will not be in default. The BB has also been proactive on the policy development front directing the financial institutions of the country on various aspects of meeting the economic fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic. BB’s response has ranged from directing banks to grant relaxation provided in respective prudential regulations related to deferment of principal or rescheduling/restructuring of financing facilities across the industrial, housing and agricultural sectors to guiding banks to implementing SOPs for continuing banking services during the period of lockdown in light of the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization. It may not be out of place to mention here that banks have continued to remain open during the Coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh.
1.3 Health Service & Guideline
To this effect, the Government in consultation with the Ministry of Health has issued several guidelines in various sector and activities to minimize the chance of the virus spreading in Bangladesh. These guidelines include, Home Quarantine, Zoning of Hospitals, Social Distancing, Establishment of Quarantine Facility, Cleaning & Disinfection of Environmental Surfaces in a Healthcare Facility, Real-Time Diagnostic Test, and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) for the safe management of a Dead body.
1.4 Visas, Travel and Air Traffic
Bangladesh Government immediately stopped all air traffic at the inception of the pandemic except flights between Bangladesh and China, as well as cargo, medical, and humanitarian flights, started nue to operate. Visa-on-arrival services remain suspended until further notice. Authorities are requiring any foreign nationals arriving in Bangladesh to provide a medical certificate (with an English translation) within 72 hours of arrival, indicating that they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Arriving passengers must self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. Officials will quarantine inbound travelers with a No Visa Required (NVR) certificate and without a medical certificate for 14 days.
Bangladesh resumed international flight services June 16 with health and social distancing measures, repealing a March 21 flight ban to destinations other than China to control the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Initial flights will serve Qatar and the UK. Flight services are likely to remain limited in the medium-term due to low demand, travel restrictions, and varied airline preparedness.
Land border crossings remain closed for passenger transit, though trade is permitted. Reports indicate ground freight transport through the Petrapole-Benapole checkpoint at the border with India's West Bengal State, previously disrupted by state-specific restrictions, has resumed as of June 9. However, lingering disruptions are possible due to slow clearance of backlog and transporter unavailability. Trade at all other border points remains functional and limited mostly to essential products.
Following are the current overseas travel requirements in Bangladesh:
· All foreign passport holders intending to depart for any international destination from any of the airports of Bangladesh shall have to obtain Covid-19 test certificate except the followings : (a) diplomats, members of UN organizations and sister organization of UN, head of internationals and their family members and (b) foreign investors and foreign passport holders who stayed in Bangladesh for less than 14 days. Covid-19 test certificate is not mandatory for children below the age of 10
· As per the instructions of Health Service Division of Bangladesh any Bangladeshi citizen intending to depart for any international destination from any of the airports of Bangladesh shall have to obtain Covid-19 test certificate in this regard. The procedures/conditions laid down by health service division Bangladesh to be followed to obtain Covid-19 test certificate.
· Considering the persistent risk and to avoid further expansion of pandemic Covid-19 throughout Bangladesh, all scheduled international commercial passenger flights to/from Bahrain, Bhutan, Hong Kong, India, Kuwait, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand shall not be allowed to land at any international airport of Bangladesh. Cargo flights, technical stop (without crew rest) medical evacuation flights, relief flights or any other emergency flights as approved by Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh will be beyond this restriction
1.5 Export control
Export of Masks and Hand Sanitizers:
A bank on export imposed on March 12 was lifted on April 2
Export of PPE:
PPE export is permitted and exports in July-May stand at $11.58 million, 33 manufacturers engaged in the new product line
Export of Hydroxychloroquine:
Bangladesh has imposed ban over export of Hydroxychloroquine. However, on April 22 the Government relaxed the restriction to export Hydroxychloroquine to Malaysia after meeting local needs.
1.6 Prohibition of crowds
The Bangladesh Government has imposed a restriction on all kinds of political, social, cultural and religious gatherings in an effort to contain the further spread of the coronavirus in the country. Also all people outside of their home are required to maintain social distance.
Besides, people having fever, cough, influenza or other symptoms of Covid-19 infection, family members of coronavirus-infected patients, and those who came in contact with the patients have been asked not to go to mosques and other places of worship.
Bangladesh Government has been imposing unofficial lockdown since the initial phase of the pandemic. At the beginning the Government declared Government holidays with restriction over unnecessary movements. The holidays were extended for a few terms but then revoked in mid June 2020. Authorities in Bangladesh are applying local-level movement controls in a progressive manner. Officials have begun categorizing administrative units based on caseload; all regions will be classified in the coming days. As of June 11, declared red zones include Cox's Bazaar where restrictions will apply through June 21; Naraynaganj's Amlapara, Jamtola, and Rupayan areas through June 21; and Sadar and Begumganj upazilas of Noakhali District through 0600 June 23. Dhaka's East Rajabazar area has commenced red zone restrictions from 0001 June 10 until further notice. The details of the restrictions are as follows:
Red zone: Areas with 40 or more cases per 100,000 people will see a complete ban on all nonemergency movement and nonessential business activity. Citizens are to stay indoors; only emergency vehicles may enter or leave such zones. Officials said essential goods such as food will be delivered to homes, while banking services will be restricted to ATM machines. Cargo transit will be permitted through limited routes and timings.
Yellow zone: Areas reporting between 3-39 cases per 100,000 people will have permissions for limited movement of citizens for essential needs such as grocery purchases. Authorities are yet to clarify the extent of business activity allowed in such zones.
Green zone: Areas reporting below three cases per 100,000 people will have no restrictions on movement. Transport, commercial, and social activities allowed on a national level will continue.
1.8 Open Businesses, Industries and allowed Gatherings
Nationwide relaxations such as opening of private businesses and shops complying with government-issued health instructions continue. Workers considered vulnerable to COVID-19, employees with illnesses, and pregnant women remain exempt from working in offices. Officials will restrict the operating hours of retail outlets to 1000-1600. Workplaces must disinfect their spaces before opening, conduct temperature checks, and ensure employees wear protective masks and maintain a physical distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet). The government previously allowed mosques to reopen but has reduced capacity to five worshipers at a time and 10 worshipers for Friday prayers. Public transport has also resumed since May 31, though with reduced services and passenger limits to maintain physical distance. Passengers on all transport must wear protective masks. Bangladesh Railway will only operate intercity services and plans to restrict passengers to 50 percent of train capacity. Domestic flight operations resumed June 1. However, authorities are curbing air travel to routes between Dhaka, Chittagong, Jessore, Sylhet, and Syedpur, where airports have already installed thermal scanners, among other recommended safety measures. Authorities plan to add additional routes as other airports in the country adopt the standards.
Despite easing measures, the government will continue a nightly 2200-0600 curfew nationwide, and residents are to remain within their homes as much as possible. An ongoing ban on social and public gatherings and the closure of public spaces, tourist attractions, educational institutions, and entertainment venues will also continue. Interdistrict movement remains restricted and requires permits. Violators of these restrictions could face legal sanctions. The government will periodically review the restrictions and determine if a further relaxation or reimposition of COVID-19 measures is warranted.
The Bangladesh Government has imposed a restriction on all kinds of political, social, cultural and religious gatherings in an effort to contain the further spread of the coronavirus in the country. Also all people outside of their home are required to maintain social distance.
1.9 Shareholder's meetings and other meetings of companies
In Bangladesh unlisted private and public limited companies can hold meetings as per their own articles as per agreement among the shareholders of such companies. So far publicly listed Companies were required to hold all of shareholder meetings including annual general meetings and board meeting under physical presence of the attendees. However, due to the pandemic the Bangladesh Security Exchange Commission has granted waiver to all publicly listed companies from such requirements. Accordingly the publicly listed companies are now allowed to hold shareholder and director meetings electronically subject to fulfillment of certain other conditions such as keeping video record of full meeting etc. So far a large number of major companies have already conducted their annual general meeting electronically.
1.10 Supply of essential medical goods
Bangladesh Bank (BB) has taken a decision to allow advance payment up to US$ 500,000 or equivalent other foreign currency in importing coronavirus-related lifesaving drugs, medical kits or equipment and other essential medical items.“To facilitate urgent medical imports required for containment of COVID-19, it has now been decided that Authorized Dealers (Ads) may effect, without repayment guarantee, advance payment up to $500,000 or equivalent other foreign currency for import of coronavirus related lifesaving drugs, medical kits or equipment and other essential medical items. To meet this challenge, a national initiative to improve strategic production capacity by facilitating production by local factories is essential. Factories under the national strategic production plan should have the capacity to produce quality emergency medical supplies with minimum delay using local or imported resources. For example, local production through strategic partners such as health institutes or factories producing electronics or machine tools would reduce the dependency on emergency imports during any outbreak. Multipurpose factories with quick transformative abilities would be a feasible option to increase the strategic production capacity.
1.11 Health care
Despite the presence of a large Bangladeshi diaspora in Europe, the government also took the bold step of suspending all flights from Europe. Learning from its East Asian neighbors including South Korea and Singapore, the government launched an aggressive awareness campaign through national mobile phone operators. This has been complemented by private-sector cooperation, with the government launching more than 500 telephone hotlines and cross-promoting private service providers on its platform.In order to ensure that frontline healthcare workers have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) are currently coordinating with five of its member companies to convert their production lines to produce 500,000 PPEs.
With a shortage of testing kits at the beginning Bangladesh was later able to import large number of testing kits but number of testing kits are still considered to be less than needed. there has been a few newly built hospitals wit
1.12 Persons with a higher risk
The Government has contract with major hospitals to maintain and operate separate units for covid patients at Government finance. In addition most of the major Government hospitals have been equipped with necessary facilities to handle covid patients. The Govt. requires all covid patients including high risk ones to be admitted in such hospitals and quarantined.
2. SUPPORT OF BUSINESSES
2.1 Legal basis
Stimulus packages of BDT 677.5bn (approx. USD 8bn)
Package 1: Government to provide BDT 300bn fund for banks to provide working capital loan facilities to the affected industries. These loans will carry interest at rate of 9%, half to be borne by borrower and half by Government as a subsidy. BB has published a circular detailing about eligibility, application, management and other terms of the package on 12 April. On 23 April BB has established Revolving Refinance Scheme of BDT 150bn to ensure financing by banks. Banks can borrow 50% of loan disbursed from BB at 4% interest rate.
Package 2: Government to provide BDT 200bn fund for banks to provide working capital loan facilities to Small (cottage industries) and medium enterprises. These loans will carry interest at rate of 9%, of which 4% to be borne by borrower and 5% by Government as a subsidy. BB has published a circular detailing about eligibility, application, conditions, reporting and other terms of the package on 13 April. On 26 April BB has established Revolving Refinance Scheme of BDT 100bn to ensure financing by banks. Banks can borrow 50% of loan disbursed from BB at 4% interest rate.
Package 3: Under Back-to-Back LC arrangement, the Export Development Fund will be increased from USD 3.5bn to USD 5bn for facilitating further import of raw materials. Interest rate will be 2%. BB has issued a circular on 7 April to implement the package.
Package 4: Central bank to launch BDT 50bn pre-shipment credit refinance scheme. BB has issued a circular detailing application method, payment method, reporting and other conditions of the package. It will be financed from BB's own source. BB will charge interest 3% from banks and banks will charge 6% from customers.
2.2 Support measures
19 March: Bangladesh Bank (BB) announces moratorium on loan payments until 30 September 2020 and that such borrowers will not be in default
31 March: Government announces details of its BDT 50bn (approx. USD595m) stimulus package for export-oriented industries. This includes assistance towards salaries and funding of 2 year loans to factory owners at 2% interest.
5 April: Prime minister announces another stimulus packages of BDT 677.5bn (approx. USD8bn) planned to implement in immediate, short and long phases through four programs (increasing public expenditure, formulating a stimulus package, widening social safety net coverage and increasing monetary supply).
13 April: Prime minister announces: direct cash assistance of BDT 7.6bn (approx. USD91mn) for informal sector workers; health insurance of BDT 5-10 lakh for health workers (doctors, nurses and others) and bankers in case of COVID-19 infected and BDT 25-50 lakh in case of death, total fund allocated BDT7.5bn (approx. USD89mn); special honorarium BDT 1bn (approx. USD12mn) allocated for bankers, health workers and others.
2.3 Tax measures
22 March - Lifting of import taxes on medical and protective items:
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) waives of 12 types of safety products and test kits from import duties and taxes until 30 June 2020.
29 April - The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has not announced any specific relief measures concerning the deadlines for filing tax returns or remitting tax payments in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:
value added tax (VAT) reporting and payment obligations have not been extended, and thus, for the month April 2020, the standard rules apply.
Business Income Tax
The Government announced a tax exemption for Private Power Generation Company (“PPGC”)
Income of PPGC exempt up to 31 December 2034;
Income of foreign nationals exempt for 3 years;
Interest payment on foreign loans can be paid off without Withholding Tax (WHT);
Royalty, Technical Know-how and Technical assistance fees payments can be made without WHT;
Capital Gains arising from divestment is exempt.
If commercial production starts during the period 1 January 2023 to 31 December 2024, a 100% exemption from tax if available for the first five years, and then a 50% exemption for the next three years followed by a 25% exemption for the next two years for a total of 10 years of some type of exemption.
Customs/Import and Other Miscellaneous Taxes
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) waives 12 types of safety products and test kits from import duties and taxes until 30 June 2020.
Filing/Payment Deadline Extension
NBR has not announced any specific relief measures concerning the deadlines for filing tax returns or remitting tax payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, considering that the country is currently in a “general holiday”, it would appear that tax return filings would be due on the next working day after the end of the general holiday, unless further clarification is provided by the NBR.
The government on 7 May 2020 approved draft legislation to extend the time for taxpayers to file their tax returns and to pay their taxes as relief measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Separate draft legislation to amend the value added tax (VAT) rules has been approved allowing the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to extend the time-limit for submission of VAT returns.
Taxpayers that comply with the filing and payment deadlines, as extended under the relief measures, will not be subject to penalty or interest assessments.
3. SUPPORT OF THE JOBMARKET
3.1 Legal basis
As epidemic is a valid reason to lay off workers under the Labour Act, 2006, a number of businesses declared lay off during the pandemic. Under such lay of period the employer may stop paying wages to workers with less than one year tenure and half basic plus house allowance to other workers for the first 45 days of lay off. Thereafter the employer can pay the workers with more than one year tenure with a wage of one fourth of basic and house allowance or alternatively can perform redundancy dismissal.
3.2 Support measures
10 May - Workers lay-off prohibition:
Ministry of Labour has prohibited garments and other factories from laying off workers ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr festivities. Furthermore, such factories are mandated to pay a full month’s salary to workers who have worked full or part of the month in April. Workers who have not been able to work at all during April shall be entitled to receive 65% of the month’s pay.
14 May - Disbursement of cash aid:
Prime Minister launched the disbursement of BDT 12.5bn (approx. USD 142m) cash aid for 5 million poor families. Each family will get BDT 2,500 (USD 30) cash through mobile financial services (MFSs).
In addition to the above the factories could also avail stimulus package as described above to pay workers. The EU has also pais Euro113 million to pay local garments workers.
4. SUPPORT OF SPECIFIC SECTORS
4.1 Legal basis
Whereas there is no legislative provision for support, The following measures have been taken by the Government.
4.2 Support measures
EXPORT & IMPORT TRADE
23 March – Extension of usance period:
Banks permitted to extend LC usance (payment) periods for import of raw materials, agricultural implements and chemical fertilizers (from 180 days to 360 days) and of life saving drugs (from 90 days to 180 days).
12 April - Quarterly repayment for imports under supplier’s/buyer’s credit:
Bangladesh Bank has decided that bullet repayment will be permissible (earlier permissible only for import of raw materials upto USD 0.5m with usance period between 6 months to 1 year) for other usance imports under supplier’s/buyer’s credit, usance period can be below 6 months or above 1 year.
11 June – LC issue with realization clause:
BB permitted that input procurements under back to back/usance LCs may be issued with realization clause on behalf of exporters operating outside EPZ/EZ till 31 December 2020.
23 March – Advance against imports of life saving drugs:
Banks may, without repayment guarantee, advance credit up to USD 500k for import of coronavirus related life-saving drugs, medical kits/equipment and other essential medical items.
4 April - Maximum margin limit for import child food:
Bangladesh Bank has set the margin limit to 5% for opening LC for importation of food for children.
24 March – Ban on ship imports:
Ministry of Industries imposes a two-week ban on the import of ships from 23 March.
23 March – Reduction in Repo interest rate:
BB’s Repo interest rate reduced from 6% to 5.75%. The repo rate is further reduced to 5.25% effective from 12 April.
22 March – Buy-back of government securities:
BB announces to buy back government securities from secondary market. As some banks and financial institutions act as primary dealer of such securities, this will help ease their liquidity.
1 April - Reduction in liquidity ratio requirements for banks:
Required Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) of the banks reduced from 5.5% to 5% on bi-weekly average basis and 5% to 4% on a daily basis. CRR is further reduced to 4% on bi-weekly average basis and 3.5% on daily basis effective from 15 April.
12 April - ADR (Advance Deposit Rate) / IDR (Investment Deposit Rate):
ADR rate increased to maximum 87% from 85% and IDR for Islamic banking has increased to 92% from existing 90%.
11 May 2020 – BB restricted on dividend payment by banks:
Banks with capital adequacy ratio (CAR) (in relation to their risk-weighted assets (RWA)) of 12.50% or above will be permitted to declare up to 30% dividend (of which cash dividend may be up to 15%); banks with CAR between 11.25% and 12.50% may declare dividend up to 15% (of which maximum cash dividend may be 7.5%); banks with CAR below 11.25% may declare dividend up to 10% (of which maximum cash dividend may be 5%). Cash dividend can be distributed before September 30 in favor of individual (local and foreign) investors.
13 May - 360-day special repo:
Banks and financial institutions can borrow 360 days against additional treasury bills and bonds of statutory deposit rate (SLR) with Bangladesh Bank. The remaining amount of the face value will be paid as repo by applying margin of 15% and 5% face value of treasury bills and bonds respectively. Rate would be decided at auction. The borrowed money cannot be invested in govt securities and BB bills.
20 March – Promotion of payment services:
· Mobile financial services - monthly transition limit increased from approximately USD 900 to USD 2,300 and charges waived on cashing out (withdrawal) of up to USD 12 per day
· Contactless debit and credit cards – daily transaction limit increased from approximately USD 35 to USD 60
· Waiver of charges to merchants when accepting debit and credit card payments for medicine and other essentials, subject to approximately limit of USD 180 per day and USD 1,200 per month.
13 April – Refinance scheme BDT 50bn (approx. USD 595m) for agriculture sector:
The scheme will be financed from BB's own source. The affected customers will be able to avail up to 20% extra of the existing loan facilities under the scheme. BB will charge interest 1% from banks and banks will charge 4% from customers. The loan will be repayable within 18 months including 6 months grace period.
27 April - Providing agricultural loan at 4% to the crop sector:
BB instructed banks to provide loan at 4% interest from banks’ own funds. BB will charge provide banks 5% interest as subsidy.
LARGE / SMALL MEDIUM ENTERPRISE
20 April - Refinance Scheme of BDT 30bn (approx. USD 357m) for low income professionals, farmers, micro businessmen:
The scheme will be financed from BB's own sources. Loan limit to individual customer is BDT 75k to BDT 3m. BB will charge 1% interest to banks, banks will charge 3.5% interest to Micro Credit Financing Institutions (MCFIs) and MCFIs will charge 9% interest to customer. Customers will repay loan within 1 to 2 years including grace period.
3 May – Loan from abroad for foreign owned/controlled companies:
BB is permitting foreign owned/controlled companies operating in Bangladesh to take short term working capital loans, for the tenure of one year extendable to another one year, from their parent companies/shareholders for funding payments of 3-month salaries. The facility is not applicable for those companies availing loan from BDT 50bn stimulus package.
10 June – Waiver of interest on loans:
BB instructed banks to waive customers interest for the period from 1 April to 31 May based unclassified loan outstanding balance as at 30 March 2020. According to the instruction, loan balance upto BDT 0.1m, waiver the whole amount of interest; loan balance more than BDT 0.1m to BDT 1m interest, interest waiver @2% annually; loan balance more than BDT 1m; interest waiver @1%. Customer wise maximum amount of waiver is BDT 1.2m.
23 March – Relaxations for holding meetings and regulatory reporting:
Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) relaxes requirement to hold annual and extraordinary general meetings and board meetings, publication and dissemination of price sensitive information and monthly/quarterly submissions to the Commission. Companies may use any digital means for holding meetings. BB issues similar instructions on holding virtual meetings and relaxing regulatory reporting.
12 May - Remittance incentives:
Expatriate Bangladeshis can get 2% incentives without showing any paper on remittance upto $5,000 (earlier $1,500) and for more than $5,000 papers need to submit within 2 months (earlier 15 days).
5. TENANCY AND LEASE
5.1 Legal basis
The law on the rights and obligations of landlord and tenants is governed by the Premises Rent Control Act, 1991. According to section 18 of the Act, the landlord cannot evict the tenant, as long as the tenant pays rent to the full extent and performs the condition of the tenancy agreement except in the following five situations where (a) the tenant has done any act contrary to the provisions of clauses (m), (c), or (p) of section 108 of the Transfer of property Act, 1882; (b) in the absence of any contract to the contrary, the tenant has, without the consent of the landlord in writing, sublet the premises in whole or in part; (c) the tenant has been guilty of nuisance or an annoyance to occupiers of adjoining or neighbouring premises; (d) the tenant has been using/allowing the premises part thereof to be used for economic purposes; or (e) the premises are bona fide required by the landlord either for building/rebuilding the premises or for his own occupation or for the occupation of any person for whose benefit the premises are held or where the landlord can show any cause that may be deemed satisfactory by the Court.
It appears from above that the Act incorporated limited and strict grounds to prohibit landlords from evicting tenants at their will. However, it gives landlord the right to evict tenants for rental arrears. There are no such provisions in the law for waiving or reducing rent due to financial or economic crisis or such unprecedented times (unless the lease agreement includes a force majeure clause, which is usually not common in leases). Therefore, if any tenant fails to pay rent in accordance with the terms of the lease agreement, landlords may terminate the agreement for breach and issue an eviction notice to the defaulting tenant.
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While the government has stepped in introducing the stimulus packages to save businesses, it is still short of including a bailout scheme for middle and low-income tenants or a temporary moratorium on residential evictions with proper guidance highlighting tenants' rights during Covid-19. Furthermore, some landlords may not be able to waive rents since it is their main source of income. In that case, mutual negotiation is the only way to address such disputes.
6. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
6.1 Legal basis
In Bangladesh The vertical courts system comprises the Supreme Court and the subordinate courts (as detailed below).
The Supreme Court was established by article 94 of the Constitution which provides that the court will have an Appellate Division and a High Court Division. The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice and such other Judges as the President may deem necessary to appoint to each division. It is the court of last resort and the ultimate arbiter of law. Its decisions are binding on all other courts.
The subordinate judiciary, which is under the control of High Court Division of the Supreme Court under article 109 of the Constitution, consists of (i) the District Courts, (ii) the Session Courts and Magistrate Courts, and (iii) the administrative courts. The functions of each of these courts are stated in paragraph (ii) below.
The Supreme Court exercises original, appellate, and advisory jurisdictions. The High Court Division of the Supreme Court has original civil jurisdiction over matters such as company restructuring, winding up, and judicial review and for such purpose this is considered as the court of first instance. Appeal against a judgment pronounced by the subordinate judiciary or the High Court Division lies within the jurisdiction of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
As the court of first instances for civil, criminal or administrative matters, suits are lodged in the relevant District Courts, Session Courts and Magistrate Courts (based on territorial and pecuniary jurisdictions), or administrative courts. Upon adjudication of the cases the aggrieved party can either resort to a review application in the same court or an appeal in the Higher Court i.e. in the High Court or the Appellate Division of Supreme Court based on the gravity and impact of the subject matter.
On July 9, 2020 amid covid pandemic the Government enacted the Information Technology by the Court Act, 2020 to empower the courts to use information technology to ensure the virtual presence of the parties during the delivery of judgments, Judicial trials, judicial inquiry, or hearing of application or appeal, or taking evidence, or arguments or delivering an order or judgment . A number of virtual benches were created to hear cases thereafter.
On May 17, 2020 a full court meeting of Supreme Court approved the practice direction prepared by the Rule Amendment Committee for conducting judicial activities of the High Court Division. It also approved the practice direction prepared by the High Court for conducting judicial proceedings of the lower courts through virtual hearings through the use of information technology under Section 5 of the Ordinance promulgated allowing IT use in court proceedings . The High Court thereon formed three separate benches for hearing urgent cases virtually during the spread of coronavirus. It also directed the subordinate court concerned to hear cases related to emergency bail through virtual presence using technology during the pandemic. The three benches were formed for a) hearing all urgent writs and civil motions, b) hearing all urgent criminal motions and bail hearings, and c) for hearing urgent civil matters. Besides, Justice Md Nuruzzaman of the Appellate Division has been given the responsibility of chamber judge.
On May 12, 2020 the Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain constituted another single-member bench of the High Court for holding virtual hearing and disposing of urgent cases through digital service. So far currently these four benches of Supreme Court are hearing urgent matters.