Bhattacharya, Justice Debesh Chandra

Bhattacharya, Justice Debesh Chandra (1914-2004) jurist, human rights activist. Debesh Bhattacharya was born on 3 November 1914 in a zamindar family of Ellenga, Tangail. He had his early education in the Junior High School of Ellenga, and passed matriculation examination from Bindubashini High School in Tangail in 1931. He passed ISc examination in 1933 from Presidency College, Calcutta and obtained BSc degree in 1935 from the same College. He received his Bachelor of Law degree from the University Law College, Calcutta in 1938. Later he obtained MA degree in Economics in 1940 from the Calcutta University.

In 1941, Debesh Bhattacharya joined the Mymensingh district bar. Along with law practice, he got himself involved in the movement against British colonial rule as well as the movement of the workers and peasants. Because of his political activism, Debesh Bhattacharya was interned in jail in Mymensingh and Dhaka for two years (1949-51) as a security prisoner. Following his release from prison, he shifted his practice from Mymensingh district court to the Dhaka High Court in 1951. He was enrolled as an Advocate of the Supreme Court in 1956 and as a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court in 1961. He was nominated as a member to the Bar Council in 1960 and worked in this capacity till the coming into operation of the Bar Council Act, 1965. He was also appointed as member of the Rule Committee of the Dhaka High Court and worked in this capacity till the extinction of the Dhaka High Court. He is most recognised for his knowledge and erudition in land law and other civil matters.

After the independence of Bangladesh, Debesh Bhattacharya was appointed as a judge of the newly established Bangladesh High Court on 21 January 1972. He was elevated to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in June 1975 and retired from the bench in December 1977. He proved himself to be an outstanding jurist and some of his verdicts had been historical and precedent setting judgements.

Justice Bhattacharya is widely remembered for his involvement in defending rule of law and human rights. He was the founder-president of Bangladesh Enemy Property Act Repeal Committee. He was a member of the Gono Adalat (People';s Court) set up to put on trial the war criminals of 1971. He was also a presidium member of the Bangladesh Peace Council and a member of the executive committee of Bangladesh Nagarik Committee. He was chairman of the Citizen';s Commission set up to investigate the Jagannath Hall tragedy of 15 October 1985. He was the founding patron of Bangladesh Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad, Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, and Mahanagar Sarbajanin Puja Committee. Justice Bhattacharya particularly fought for establishment of equal rights for all women and strongly advocated amendment of Hindu laws for strengthening rights of Hindu women.

Throughout his life, Justice Bhattacharya was actively associated with wide ranging educational and social institutions. He was the president of the governing board of Aleem-Al-Razi Law College; president of Ramkrishna Mission, Dhaka; president of gandhi ashram, Noakhali and president of Prabartak Sangha, Chittagong. In his own village at Ellenga, he undertook extensive philanthropic activities and established a number of educational institutions including a high school for girls named after his mother.

Notwithstanding his preoccupations, he used to compose poems. An anthology of his poems was later published under the title Kalpa Kavya Manjusa. Four volumes containing his essays were published as well. Justice Bhattacharya passed away on 2 February 2004. To keep his memory alive, philanthropic activities including establishment of a hospital for mothers and children have been undertaken by Justice Debesh Bhattacharya Foundation. [Deva Priya Bhattacharya] [Bhattacharya, Deva Priya Fellow, Center for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka]