Speakers at a seminar on Friday urged the government to scrap the speedy energy supply law – officially known as the Quick Enhancement of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provision) Act, 2010 – terming it "unconstitutional".
They also called upon the government to cancel all the coal- and gas-fired rental and quick rental power plants and coal-fired power plant projects immediately.
They were addressing a virtual seminar titled "Challenges of Energy Sector Immunity in Bangladesh", jointly organised by Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt and School of People's Law.
Eminent environmentalist Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, criticised the government's plan to build 29 coal-fired power plants without formulating a coal policy.
"In the last 14-15 years, a number of coal policies were drafted, but none was finalised. How come the government went on building 29 plants without even finalising a policy?"
Rizwana also criticised the government's intolerance to opposition voices.
"In the past, people could protest the open-pit coal mining and power plants. But now, even 200 people cannot gather and protest a power plant. They will be beaten up by police. There is no exception of it even in the case of the university professors," said Rizwana.
The speedy power supply law was enacted in 2010 for two years. The law was first extended by two years until 2014 and by four years until 2018. In 2018, it was extended for the third time until 2021.
Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua presented the keynote paper at the discussion.
He said, "This law is a clear violation of the constitution. It has unfettered power and is being used against the public interest."
He criticised the law as it indemnifies officials from prosecution for awarding contracts without tender.
In late June, former secretary to Power Division Fouzul Kabir Khan also demanded that the speedy power supply law be revoked.
He commented that the law helped to gain the capacity but turned out to be a reason for the power sector's inefficiency. The law has been renewed multiple times which is no longer necessary.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports has also recently urged the government to abolish the law.
They demanded a transparent, pragmatic and pro-people power policy for ensuring the country's energy security through utmost utilisation of domestic resources.
Supreme Court lawyer Qazi Zahed Iqbal, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt's member secretary Hasan Mehedi spoke at the seminar, among others.