The High Court verdict that has barred people who were jailed for more than two years, with their appeals pending with the courts, from contesting election has brought miseries to Bangladesh Nationalist Party as it has apparently shut BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia out of the forthcoming national polls.
The HC passed the order on Tuesday in response to an appeal seeking a stay order on the imprisonment of five BNP leaders: Amanullah Aman, Dr AZM Zahid Hossain, Wadud Bhuiyan, Md Moshiur Rahman and Md Abdul Wahab.
The court in its observation has said as per the constitution, if a person is sentenced to more than two years in prison, he or she will not be able to participate in the election until the Appellate Division rejects or suspends the verdict.
With this, legal experts say, the BNP’s hope that the party chief and several other influential leaders, who have been awarded imprisonments for different terms in graft cases, could take part in the coming general election by filing appeal with the higher courts challenging their convictions, has suffered a crushing blow.
The HC order will restrict Khaleda Zia, who has been named for participating from three constituencies — two in Bogura and one in Feni — from contesting the upcoming parliamentary election as she was awarded the 17-year jail term in two separate graft cases.
The convicts are not eligible for the election, said ACC’s lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan citing the constitution.
Responding to a question, the lawyer said: “The High Court Division has explained it in line with the constitution. It is a legal obligation for the Election Commission. The commission has no jurisdiction to go beyond the court’s observation.”
On a question whether Khaleda would have the opportunity to participate in the election after the court order, he said, “Not at all. That’s what I said earlier. If she is acquitted or the penalty has been cancelled, she will be able to compete. Today’s order has made it evident once again.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam claimed that Khaleda would not be able to participate in the parliamentary elections for five years even if she is acquitted of all charges or the convictions are cancelled.
“Even if the High Court acquits her in these cases, she would not be able to take part in the next general election. She has to wait for five more years after her acquittal to take part in the polls,” Mahbubey Alam said.
The chief state counsel said these while briefing newsmen at his office after a High Court bench in its observation on Tuesday morning said if a person is sentenced for more than two years by a lower court, he or she would not be able to take part in polls while is an appeal against the conviction is pending.
“All the pleaders were convicted and have not been acquitted from their sentences. Five-year time has also not passed since their conviction. At this moment, if the court allows them to take part in next general election by staying their conviction, it will go against Article 66 of the constitution. The court then scrapped their pleas,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam added.
When the journalists asked whether the provision will also be in effect for Khaleda Zia also, the chief state counsel said, “Certainly. It is a constitutional provision. There are two conditions here. If she gets convicted, she would not be able to take part in election. If she gets acquitted from the charges, she has to wait for five years to take part in election again. No court can disregard these constitutional barriers through its verdict.”
“Our Appellate Division and High Court Division are formed in accordance with the constitution. They have to follow the constitution and cannot ignore these,” he added.
Apart from Khaleda Zia a number of other party bigwigs including the five who appealed for stay order on their convictions have now been barred from entering the election race.
A special court sentenced Aman to 13 years in jail in 2007 for concealing wealth information. Later, the HC dismissed the verdict. The legal battle then went to the Appellate Division that ordered a review of the verdict dismissal in response to a petition in 2014.
A Chattogram court sentenced Wadud Bhuiyan to 20 years in jail for accumulating illegal wealth worth over Tk 60 million and concealing information. He secured bail on in 2009.
Zahid Hossain, a physician allied with the BNP, was imprisoned for 13 years in 2008 by a Dhaka court. He secured bail in 2009.
A Jashore court handed down an eight-year jail term to Wahab on Oct 30, 2017 on charges of accumulating illegal wealth worth over Tk 9.3 million and submitting a false wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission. He secured bail on Dec 6 last year.
Moshiur Rahman was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Jashore court on similar charges. Later, he secured bail.