Vol. 5 Num 6 Wed. June 02, 2004  
Front Page

Dhaka-10 by-poll Symbol Dispute
Lawyers question handling of case

Lawyers of the Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) candidate yesterday pointed out that the Supreme Court acted with rare speed in the symbol dispute case of Dhaka-10 by-election.

They also pointed out that petitioners are often allowed to appeal against stay orders without even getting certified copies of full orders of the High Court. In such cases, the petitioners file 'civil miscellaneous petition' and the court often does not check the documents.

The lawyers made the observations on the second day of the full bench's hearing of the appeal against the High Court order that stayed the June 6 by-election to Dhaka-10 till June 12.

BDB lawyers also alleged tampering with the by-election schedule and sought a court directive for a shift of the election date fearing that voting at this stage will not be free and fair.

They also requested the Supreme Court to let the High Court stay order remain unchanged and let the High Court division bench dispose of the matter slated for hearing on June 12.

The full bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Syed JR Modassir Husain sits again today to hear the appeal.

Without referring to ruling four-party alliance candidate Mossadak Ali Falu, also a former political secretary to the prime minister, Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud stated that had an influential candidate of a particular party not contested the ensuing by-election, would the Supreme Court still have formed a special bench and full bench to hear the matter during vacation?

And would the court have allowed a hearing of the CMP without the Vokalatnama (warrant of attorney), that too filed after the court hour? Rokan continued. Would the officials of the Office of Attorney General have played the messenger's role to collect the Vokalatnama, Rokanuddin also questioned.

The court however told him that it certainly would have formed a special bench or a full bench in any important case and that such a move was not unprecedented as events like these happened in the past.

Another lawyer of BDB candidate, Barrister Rafique-Ul Haq, however differed with the court's observation and said there was no such instance in the history of Bangladesh although such examples are there in Pakistan.

He said if any order of the High Court goes against the government, it files CMP against the order and the court allows the government to file CMP in nine out of 10 cases. As many as 311 CMPs have already been filed this year, he told the court.

Referring to Bhola-1 by-election that could not be held during the tenure of the seventh parliament after the High Court stayed the voting, Rokan asked why similar efforts were not made as it is being made now?

He alleged that all these are being done for a particular candidate.

Rokan urged the full bench to let the stay order be disposed of in the High Court. If the Appellate Division wants to maintain sanctity of the constitution, then the High Court Division should be allowed to exercise its jurisdiction as enshrined in the constitution.

He added that the Appellate Division should not interfere with the interim order of the High Court.

Rokan also accused the Election Commission officials of tampering with the by-election procedure through violating poll laws and regulations.

He said according to the schedule, the returning officer (RO) of Dhaka-10 by-election was required to allocate symbols in favour of the contesting candidates on May 21. But the RO allocated the symbols to the candidates on May 20, the last day of withdrawal of the candidature, which is a violation of the election law, he noted.

The lawyer said according to the Election Commission directives, the RO of Munshiganj-1 by-election allocated "Kula" symbol in favour of BDB candidate Mahi B Chowdhury, but the RO of Dhaka-10 did not follow the directives although the High Court directed the RO to reconsider allocation of the election symbol "Kula" to BDB candidate Abdul Mannan.

This way the entire election process became non-transparent and it is not possible to have a free and fair election, Rokan observed.

He also said that the chief election commissioner (CEC)'s denial of approving the filing of appeal against the High Court stay order has baffled people.

Rokan made his arguments for over two and a half hours yesterday, but the counsel of the petitioner, TH Khan, did not make any submission. However, after the hearing, Khan told reporters that there was no substance in Rokan's submission.

He again observed that the matter did not merit such a long hearing. On the demand of rescheduling of Dhaka-10 by-polls, he said the demand is a fantasy. The High Court does not have the power to reschedule the election, it is the Election Commission's job.