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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 61
March 29 , 2008

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Charge sheet against Tarique in a week
In the wake of widespread criticism over the slow progress of investigation of cases against many high-profile corruption suspects, the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) is trying to speed up legal procedures. The ACC yesterday said the charge sheet in a case filed against Tarique Rahman in connection with illegally amassing wealth could be submitted in a week. The case was filed on September 26 last year. Even though the military-backed caretaker government after assuming power last year talked about widespread allegations of corruption by BNP-led four-party-alliance government leaders, no significant progress was made in prosecuting former prime minister and BNP chief Khaleda Zia, her sons BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko. Meanwhile, several cases filed against former premier and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina were moved to different trial courts and even in higher courts to get the cases disposed of quickly. This move raised questions over the impartial role of the caretaker government in dealing with corruption suspects of different political parties.“The charge sheet in the illegal wealth case against Tarique can get approval from the commission [ACC] any moment and it can be done in this week," said ACC Director General (admin) Col Hanif Iqbal in a routine press briefing yesterday. "Scrutiny of the investigation report in the case against Tarique has been completed. It is at the final stage and awaits approval from the commission to be placed as a charge sheet," Hanif added.

The IO submitted the investigation report in January but two months were spent in just scrutinising the report. --The Daily Star, March 25, 2008.

Dhaka wants donor status at UNHCR
Bangladesh will seek donor status at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which would enable Bangladesh to be part of the decision-making process regarding refugee issues across the globe. The decision to seek donor status has already been made in principle during a recent inter-ministerial meeting at the foreign ministry with officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, home and food and disaster management participating. "We have forwarded the proposal to the finance ministry because there is an issue of financial involvement," a foreign ministry official told The Daily Star yesterday. The decision to seek donor status was made following a proposal from Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to United Nations in Geneva Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya. "We can participate in all the UNHCR meetings, which its donors attend, and make our contribution to decisions," the official said, adding, "We are interested to get donor status because there are around 25,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh for over the last one decade." Asked about the amount of money Bangladesh needs to donate to UNHCR to enjoy the donor status, the official said this was actually a token donation. There are many countries that donate $2,000 or more yearly, he said. "We shall also donate a minimum amount." On how Bangladesh's national interest regarding the Rohingya issue will be ensued when it gets the donor status, the official said Bangladesh can discuss in details its views and problems with the UN agency and its other donors regarding the issue. "We cannot force repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, but can surely have amicable solutions of problems centring it," he said. --The Daily Star, March 25, 2008.

5th Amendment Case :SC for hearing of govt appeal by bigger bench
A three-member bench of the Appellate Division yesterday referred to the chief justice for hearing by a bigger bench on government appeal against the High Court judgment that declared illegal the Fifth Amendment to the constitution.
When the long-pending government appeal came up for hearing, the bench, headed by Justice M Fazlul Karim, passed the order of referral of the appeal hearing that involves important constitutional interpretations, as the Fifth Amendment had ratified regimes since the August 15, 1975 changeover until April 9, 1979. Court sources said the bench took the decision as it felt the necessity of hearing such matter of great importance by a greater bench. On Aug 29, 2005, the High Court declared “illegal” the Fifth Amendment to the constitution, meaning the rules by Khandker Mushtaque Ahmed, Abu Sadaat Mohammad Sayem and Ziaur Rahman since August 15, 1975 until April 9, 1979 were unlawful. The verdict had come upon a decades-old writ petition challenging the Martial Law Regulation (MLR) 7 of 1977, issued to legalise all acts of the martial-law governments. In the verdict, the HC had observed that martial law as a whole is 'illegal and unconstitutional' and all the actions, laws, and rules made under martial law are 'illegal'. “The changes of government between August 15, 1975 and before the national elections of 1991 were not carried out constitutionally,” the HC verdict had said.

A High Court bench comprising Justice ABM Khairul Haque and Justice ATM Fazle Kabir also had observed that the constitution does not permit anyone to assume power by any means other than the ones mentioned in the constitution. “If anyone does so, it will amount to sedition.” The court, however, noted that although all government activities between August 15, 1975 and April 9, 1979 had been declared illegal, the history cannot be altered. “Many of these illegal acts were done in public interest.” From this perspective, the court 'condones' some of these actions that could have been done in line with the constitution. -- UNB, March 25, 2008

HC verdict on Khaleda's writ petition Apr 10
The High Court yesterday fixed April 10 for pronouncing its judgment on the writ petition of detained BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia challenging validity of the Election Commission invitation to her party's reformists for dialogue on electoral reforms.
A division bench comprising Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Mamnoon Rahman passed the order following hearings on extensive submissions from both sides.
The court also adjourned until April 10 the hearing on another writ of similar nature in the form of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Nasir Uddin Ashim, a BNP leader.
On November 4 last year, the High Court, upon Ashim's writ, had issued a rule upon the EC and the government to explain why they should not be directed to invite legitimate BNP officials for the pre-election dialogue on electoral reforms.
The BNP-leadership dispute arose when on November 5 last year the EC, ignoring Khaleda-appointed BNP Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain, sent a letter to Maj (Retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed to participate in the dialogue with political parties on electoral reforms. Aggrieved at the decision, Khaleda Zia, also the immediate-past premier, moved to the High Court for seeking redress.

On November 18 the same year, the High Court, responding to Khaleda's writ, had stayed operation of the EC letter to the BNP standing committee-nominated acting Secretary General, Maj Hafiz, causing the Election Commission to inconclusively conclude the crucial first round of its reform dialogue with political parties. The court also had issued a rule upon the EC, the acting secretary general and six members of the BNP standing committee and the chief adviser of the caretaker government to explain why the impugned letter 'should not be declared illegal'. --UNB, March 25, 2008.

Corresponding with the Law Desk
Please send your mails, queries, and opinions to: Law Desk, The Daily Star 19 Karwan Bazar, Dhaka-1215; telephone 8124944,8124955,fax 8125155; email: dslawdesk@yahoo.co.uk,lawdesk@thedailystar.net


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