Law


I have very little to add to the excellent summation of the recent HC verdict posted earlier. I would like to note some additional points. In our adverserial justice system, both sides get lawyers who argue for their clients. In this verdict, there was no one representing Ziaur Rahman. Whatever the merits of this writ petition, it seems unusual to proceed when one of the main actors is not represented in the case.

Much has been made out Lawrence Lifschultz’s statement to the Court, but given that he himself admits that he is reporting information that others told him, his statement becomes hearsay, and is not admissible in a court of law. Justice Manik has warned that any criticism of Lifschultz would be considered contempt of court. As we shall see below, contempt of court is a favorite weapon of Justice Manik’s. However, this sort of extension of contempt of court by fiat, to a person who is not a judge or officer of the court, is simply ridiculous. Finally, this case is directly covered by the Fifth Amendment verdict. Under that prior decision, the legality of the Taher trial comes down to whether this trial falls under these two exceptions:

(c) all acts during that period which tend to advance or promote the
welfare of the people;
(d) all routine works done during the above period which even the
lawful government could have done.

This is all the bench had to do. Did this trial increase public welfare? Even if martial law was not in effect, would another government have tried armed mutiny against the government? Instead, Justice Manik went on a determined campaign to vilify Ziaur Rahman.

Two years ago, Justice Manik was simply another Awami League hack in a position of power. However, he has certainly stood out in the last two years. He is on record defending BKSAL. He delights in hauling individuals, mainly private citizens and mid-level government employees, in front of him and berating them in most unjudicious language. On one occasion, he told Ziaul Huq Khandkar, chairman of the SEC:

পর্যায়ে আদালত চেয়ারম্যানকে তিরস্কার করে বলে, আপনি দায়িত্ব পালনে অযোগ্য। গত এক মাস ধরে শেয়ারবাজারে যে অস্থিরতা দেখা গেছে, তার জন্য আপনার মতো লোকরাই দায়ী। আদালত শেয়ারবাজারের অস্থিরতার নেপথ্যে ষড়যন্ত্র থাকার ইঙ্গিত দিয়ে আরও বলে, যিনি বিধিবদ্ধ সংস্থা ও সরকারী সংস্থার মধ্যে পার্থক্য বোঝেন না, তিনি কী করে পরিস্থিতি সামলাবেন! এটা তো একটা কমন সেন্সের ব্যাপার। দীর্ঘ দিন অভিজ্ঞতার পরও তাঁর কমন সেন্স হয়নি।এ সময় আদালত তাকে তীব্র ভাষায় ভৎসনা করে দাঁড়িয়ে থাকার নির্দেশ দেন।

However, his choicest words were reserved for Syed Abul Maqsud:

আদালত এক পর্যায়ে বলেন, একটা লোক নিজেকে বুদ্ধিজীবী মনে করে, এটা একটা দায়িত্বজ্ঞানহীন বক্তব্য। আদালত বলেন, তিনি একটা ষড়যন্ত্রকে লালন করছেন। এ সময় সিনিয়র আইনজীবী ইউসুফ হোসেন হুমায়ুন বলেন, তিনি নিজেকে গান্ধীর অনুসারী বলে থাকেন। এ সময় আদালত বলে, কিভাবে গান্ধীর অনুসারী। তিনি একটি বুদ্ধিহীন লোক। তিনি যা লিখেছেন তা মারাত্মক। এক পর্যায়ে একজন আইনজীবী বলেন, তিনি একজন বুদ্ধিজীবী। তখন আদালত বলেন কিসের বুদ্ধিজীবী, তিনি একজন নির্বোধ। অপর এক আইনজীবী বলেন, তিনি জ্ঞানপাপী, তখন আদালত বলেন কিসের জ্ঞানপাপী, তিনি নির্বোধ। আদালত বলেন, কোর্ট সম্পর্কে আপনার কোন পরিষ্কার ধারণা নেই। আবার টেলিভিশন চ্যানেলে টক শোতে বড় বড় কথা বলেন। আদালত সম্পার্কে টিআইবির রিপোর্ট সাপোর্ট করেন। টাউট, বাটপাড়, দালাল-যারা ঘুষ নিয়েছে তাদের আদালতের অন্তর্ভুক্ত করে টিআইবি বিচার বিভাগের দুর্নীতির রিপোর্ট প্রকাশ করে। সে রিপোর্ট আপনারা সমর্থন করেন।অতিরিক্ত এটর্নি জেনারেল এম কে রহমান আদালতের কাছে আবুল মকসুদকে মার্জনা করার আবেদন জানালে আদালত তাকে সারাদিন দাঁড়িয়ে থাকার নির্দেশ দিয়ে বলেন, এ ধরনের বুদ্ধিজীবীর জন্যই দেশের আজ এ অবস্থা

Justice Manik declared the Seventh Amendment illegal, but forgot to cancel the punishment for the appellant, which was the main point of the case. However, he certainly did not forget to let the nation know that he hated, hated, hated Ziaur Rahman.

Even after such devoted Zia-bashing, Justice Manik was hurt when he was not granted seniority and the recent promotion of judges to the Appellate Division were not to his liking. He threatened to promptly go on leave, but then changed his mind.

Hopefully, the spectacle that Justice Manik is making of himself and of the judiciary will cause everyone to think more critically about the necessity of placing qualified individuals on the bench. The issue here is not political identity: all individuals can have their own political philosophy. However, when law is nakedly insubordiated to partisan ideology, the image of the judiciary as a whole, and the rule of law it is designed to implement, is irrevocably damaged.

While giving the verdict on the legality of the punishment of Colonel Taher, the high-court bench of Justices Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Zakir Hossain declared that the whole trial process was illegal and it was in fact a cold blooded murder of Taher by Late president Ziaur Rahman.

What high-court did to come to this conclusion? They interviewed one shoddy journalist character Lawrence lifshultz, who is a political follower of Taher’s communist doctrine. Other interviewed are also 1. Political opponents of Ziaur Rahman’s political platform 2. Supporters of ruling party who took it as their prime job to destroy Zia’s image 3. Political followers of Colonel Taher. Even the judges who delivered the justice, are publicly known nemesis of Ziaur Rahman’s ideology and are former leaders of socialist political platform based on Taher’s doctrine. And this is probably the first court proceeding in Bangladesh history where an witness could simply deliver his opinion via e mail to a third person. There was no ‘balai’ of oath taking, cross examination etc.

Before we go further into what these two judges did and what their judgment means, lets see what Taher in fact did back in early 70s.

1. Taher revolted against the then Awami League government of Sheikh Mijibur Rahman and formed and led an armed force called ” Gonobahinee”. Thousands and thousands of Awami League activists, leaders as well as general people were killed by the armed force. Any literature describing Mujib era Bangladesh will give testimony of the atrocities of Taher’s Gonobahinee.

2. While all other sector commanders were being promoted in the army as Brigadier/ Major General and who in turn helped rebuild the army, Taher was sacked from Bangladesh army by Mujib Government. ( It is unclear what Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik had to say about this cold blooded sacking of ‘war hero’ Taher).

3. Many sources, well informed of the political military dynamics of 1975, say that it was Taher who was more likely to kill Mujib and there was an invisible race among Taher’s group and Faruq Rashids group in who would kill Mujib first. After hearing of the massacre of 15th August, most observers’ first suspicion was on Taher.

4. Taking the advantage of unstable situation of Bangladesh, Taher’s forces ( a select group of armed anti state forces including Taher’s brother Bahar) attacked Indian High Commission in Dhaka in an attempt to kill India’s high commissioner in Dhaka, Mr Samar Sen. Although Samar Sen survived with bullet wounds in his back, Police force guarding India’s high Commission shot and killed four members of Taher forces ( Including Taher brother Bahar).

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While our top judiciary were busy protecting their মান সম্মান (respect) by jailing, punishing and fining editors, newspaper reporter and publisher, it looks like the ‘public’ has spoken out. There is a local saying, পাবলিকের মুখ তো আর বন্ধ কইরা রাখতে পারবেন না… one can gag the media by jailing maverick editors, but whatever powerful one may be, no one can keep the general public from speaking out.

Exactly this is what happened to our high judiciary. Bangladesh chapter of Berlin based Transparency International conducted a household survey about their perception of corruption in different service sector in Bangladesh. In that survey, Bangladesh’s top judiciary was deemed most corrupt, even superseding Bangladesh’s notorious police force.

It is true a better perception should not have been expected when the high judiciary in Bangladesh is now led by shamelessly partisan, hypocrite, academically ill and misinformed Judge, Mr Khairul Haque. It matters a little how or what the leadership of our higher court feels about this demeaning public perception. But it is important to emphasize that after this, the judiciary does not have any moral right to keep dissident editor Mr Mahmudur Rahman in jail. Reporter Oliullah Noman, who already served a jail sentence, deserves an apology from this judiciary.

One may ask why public perception about the integrity of our judiciary did give such a nosedive. For them the story below should be enough to describe the state of our judiciary.

গত ১৩ নভেম্বর মতিঝিল থানায় দায়ের করা গাড়ি ভাঙচুর মামলায় বাংলাদেশ জামায়াতে ইসলামীর ঢাকা মহানগর আমীর রফিকুল ইসলাম খানকে গ্রেফতার দেখিয়ে জিজ্ঞাসাবাদের জন্য সাত দিনের রিমান্ডের আবেদন করেছেন মামলার তদন্ত কর্মকর্তা মতিঝিল থানার এসআই। আদালতের নথিতে রয়েছে, রফিকুল ইসলাম খান গত ২৫ আগস্ট থেকে সরকারের হেফাজতে ঢাকা কেন্দ্রীয় কারাগার এবং ঢাকা মহানগর ডিবি কার্যালয়ে আটক রয়েছেন। আদালতের কাছে এ নথি সংরক্ষিত থাকা সত্ত্বেও পুলিশের করা এ মিথ্যা মামলায় রফিকুল ইসলাম খানের জামিন নামঞ্জুর করে তাকে কারাগারে পাঠানো হয়েছে। পল্টন থানার একই ধরনের অন্য একটি মামলায় তিন দিন রিমান্ড শেষে রফিকুল ইসলাম খানকে ২১ ডিসেম্বর ঢাকা সিএমএম আদালতে হাজির করা হয়। রিমান্ড আবেদনে বলা হয়, রফিকুল ইসলাম খান গত ১৩ নভেম্বর সন্ধ্যায় নটর ডেম কলেজের সামনে নিজ দলের নেতাকর্মীদের নিয়ে সশরীরে হাজির হয়ে একটি যাত্রীবাহী বাস থেকে যাত্রীদের টেনেহিঁচড়ে নামিয়ে বাসটি ভাঙচুর করেন। একই সাথে আসামি নিজ হাতে গাড়িটিতে আগুন ধরিয়ে দেন। দাউ দাউ করে বাসটি জ্বলতে থাকলে মতিঝিল থানা থেকে ঘটনাস্খলে গিয়ে তাকে দৌড়ে পালিয়ে যেতে দেখা গেছে। পুলিশের চোখ ফাঁকি দিয়ে তিনি দীর্ঘ দিন পলাতক ছিলেন। গাড়ি ভাঙচুর ও আগুন দেয়ার সময় তার সাথে যারা ছিল তাদের নাম-ঠিকানা জানতে তাকে সাত দিন পুলিশের হেফাজতে রাখা প্রয়োজন।

রফিকের আইনজীবীরা আদালতে বলেন, মামলা দায়ের হয়েছে ১৩ নভেম্বর। ঘটনাও ঘটেছে ওই দিন। ফরোয়ার্ডিংয়ে বলা হয়েছে, গাড়ি ভাঙচুর ও পোড়ানোর ব্যাপারে তিনি স্বয়ং হাজির থেকে নেতৃত্ব দিয়েছেন। তিনি নিজ হাতে আগুনও দিয়েছেন। অথচ এ ঘটনার দুই মাস ১৮ দিন আগে ২৫ আগস্ট রফিককে গ্রেফতার করা হয়েছে। ওই দিন থেকে তিনি কারা ও ডিবি পুলিশের হেফাজতে রয়েছেন। কাজেই রিমান্ড তো দূরের কথা, এ মামলাই গ্রহণযোগ্য নয়।

আদালত আসামিপক্ষের আইনজীবীদের তাদের বক্তব্যের সপক্ষে তথ্যপ্রমাণ দিতে বলেন। আইনজীবীরা রফিকের গ্রেফতার হওয়ার পর আদালতের বিভিন্ন তারিখের আদেশ ও এর আগে রিমান্ডের কাগজপত্র পেশ করেন। তারা উচ্চ আদালতের একটি আদেশনামাও পেশ করেন। এতে উল্লেখ রয়েছে, রফিক গত ২৫ আগস্ট থেকে সরকারের হেফাজতে রয়েছেন। তথ্যপ্রমাণের ভিত্তিতে আসামিপক্ষের দাবিই সঠিক এবং পুলিশের মামলাটি মিথ্যা বলে প্রমাণিত হয়।

লজ্জার বিষয়, দলীয় তাগিদে পেশাগত নৈতিকতা জলাঞ্জলি দিয়ে মিথ্যাচারেও পিছপা হলেন না সরকারপক্ষীয় আইনজীবীরা। তারা আদালতকে বললেন, পুলিশ যে মামলা দিয়েছে তা সঠিক। আসামিকে রিমান্ড থেকে বাঁচানোর জন্য তার আইনজীবীরা আদালতে মিথ্যা তথ্য দিয়ে আদালতকে বিভ্রান্ত করছে। এক পর্যায়ে আদালতের বিচারক অতিরিক্ত মহানগর ম্যাজিস্ট্রেট মো: আলী হোসাইন এজলাস ছেড়ে খাস কামরায় চলে যান। খাস কামরায় বসেই তিনি রিমান্ড আবেদন নামঞ্জুর করেন। একই সাথে জামিনের আবেদনও নাকচ করে দিয়ে তাকে কারাগারে পাঠানোর আদেশ দেয়া হয়।

In a nutshell, a senior leader of political party Jamaat has been under arrest since 25th August. The whole country knows about it. As the cases against him are not that strong and to extend his jail term or to make him confess to something specific, government’s law men needed to bring him back to remand ( Questioning/ torture time). For this reason a request was made to Dhaka district CMM court to grant ten days remand and continued incarceration on the ground that this leader himself burnt buses on 13th November. Per police request, police officials themselves saw that this specific leader was setting fire to a bus and while the bus was set ablaze, he ran away.  And since then he was hiding until 21st December when he was produced before this Choef Metropolitan Magistrate Court. While defendant’s lawyers informed the judge that the defendant in under arrest from 25th August and produced all the paper works in support of their claim, the government lawyers response was that the paper-works were false and fabricated.  The honorable Judge, after being satisfied with government lawyers’ incredible argument, granted maximum ten days remand of the defendant and also approved continued incarceration. ( He even did not bother to ask why continued imprisonment need to be granted if he was indeed not in jail until now).

Published in BDnews24.com opinion Section on November 28th.

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Rumi Ahmed

It’s not personal

November 28, 2010

khaleda-cry300pxThe manner in which the leader of the opposition and former prime minister Khaleda Zia was evicted from her cantonment residence was outright shocking to most observers of Bangladesh politics. Not only the physical eviction itself, but the way the opposition leader was literally pushed out of her home of 38 years by an overwhelming government force, speaks volumes of its ‘autocratic’ mentality. The whole chain of events surrounding the eviction process was totally unforeseen in the history of democratic Bangladesh.

Notable in the chain of events were the mind-blowing fast tracking of judiciary, manipulation of hazy legal jargons, and ultimately bypassing of the highest judiciary to push forward with the government’s agenda to remove the opposition leader from her home. The media manipulation of the event was also unprecedented for a democratic government. Advancing on what the previous military-controlled regime did, from the day before the incident, the media was fed with concocted stories of Khaleda Zia leaving her home willingly. And on the day of the event and the day after, the naked dishonesty and partisanship of the defence department’s press wing, ISPR, was simultaneously a painful reminder of the demise of the armed forces as neutral public servants and the last nail in the coffin of an institutional balance of power under present government.

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It’s hard to know what the Awami League government was thinking when they decided to evict Khaleda Zia from her home. However, it did not go completely as Sheikh Hasina had planned. Khaleda Zia’s televised press conference affected almost everyone. As Syed Abul Maqsud put it in a column aptly titled “The Government’s Truth:

স্বেচ্ছায় বাড়ি ছাড়ার দৃশ্যটি দেখে অন্তত কিছু মানুষ তাদের জীবনের সর্বোচ্চ সুখ উপভোগ করেছে। কয়েক কোটি মানুষ হয়তো মনে মনে বলছে, বেশ হয়েছে। তবে আট-দশ কোটি মানুষের মনের অবস্থা আমাদের মতো অ-মনোবিজ্ঞানীর পক্ষে জানা সম্ভব নয়। তাদের মনোভাব জানা যাবে ২০১৩-র ডিসেম্বরে। (“The way in which the home was ‘voluntarily left’ has probably given some people the greatest happiness of their lives. Perhaps a few crores of our people thought to themselves: this isn’t too bad. What the rest eight or ten crores thought is unknown to non-psychologists like us. However, we shall find out in December 2013.”)

Syed Abul Maqsud’s political orientation is not unknown. When columnists of his stripe start talking about December 2013, one must realize that this is the most serious message they can deliver to the Awami League Government. They are politely reminding Sheikh Hasina: “এই দিন দিন না আরো দিন আছে

As Maqsud noted, the full extent of the reaction to this event shall not be known until well into the future. But the fact that there was a reaction was evident to everyone. Awami League had not expected this; they thought they what happened inside Jahangir Gate would, so to speak, stay inside Jahangir Gate. They even issued a press statement “thanking” Khaleda Zia forleaving voluntarily. However, once it became apparent that explaining away this action was going to be a bit more complicated than that, Awami League quickly set out to bring this reaction in their favor through a two-prong strategy.

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Five Army officers have been convicted in Court Martial for attempted murder on Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, MP. They are: Major Helal, Captain Rezaul Karim, Captain Rajib, Captain Fuad, and Captain Subayel Ibne Rafique. They have each been setenced to five years of jail, stripped of their army rank, and denied any retirement benefits. They will be serving out their sentences in Dhaka Central Jail.

Bangladesh has an unfortunate tendency of either seeing such attacks go uninvestigated or using them for political gain. The investigation and trial of the attackers on Sheikh Taposh could have been an exception to this trend. Court Martial proceedings are much more restricted in nature than civilian trials, that much is understood. However, to hold the entire trial in secret, and only allow it to appear in the media once the sentence has been delivered seems to be much more restrictive than was necessary.

A Daily Star report by Julikar Ali Manik says that the five officers were charged with “Violation of Good Order and Discipline,” under section 55 of the Manual of Bangladesh Army Law. The relevant section states “Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and of military discipline shall, on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.”

Five Army officers, on their own, reach a conclusion that a Member of Parliament and a nephew of the Prime Minister is responsible for one of the worst carnages in our nation’s history. They do so by expressly going against the Prime Minister’s words, who is also their boss because she holds the defence portfolio. They disavow the investigation report compiled by the Army itself. They steal explosives and munitions and attempt to murder a Member of Parliament.

 

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The value of Bangladesh Supreme Court apparently took a big plunge under it’s new leader Justice Khairul Haque.


Few months ago, the market rate of the honor of Bangladesh Supreme Court was 100,000 taka and six months jail sentence. That was under the leadership of former Chief Justice Fazlul Karim.The full bench of the court decided that rate when they sentenced newspaper editor Mahmudur Rahman for a report what they thought was truthful yet contemptuous of court.

So it was a matter of huge public curiosity when the same editor Mahmudur Rahman was brought back to the highest court for a second contempt of court case against him. And again the three men ( two men short this time, as two seniormost judges are not working out of ‘oviman’ as they were superseded by JusticeKhairul haque to be Chief Justice) found editor Mahmudur Rahman guilty of contempt of court.

However there was a difference in sentencing. Justice Khairul Haque led court  only sentenced editor Mahmudur Rahman a fine of 100 taka and no jail term. A major plunge from 100,000 taka and six months jail fixed by previous court.

Well, this is only the first month of Justice Khairul Haque’s Supreme Court. Let’s see what comes next. From 100,000 to 100 taka in a month. Then what?

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