Khaleda granted bail

Tasneem Khalil

Tasneem Khalil

[Dhaka Correspondent] The High Court Sunday stayed the proceedings of the GATCO scam case against former prime minister Khaleda Zia and her younger son, Arafat Rahman, under the Emergency Powers Rules. The High Court bench of Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman and Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury granted bail to Khaleda in the case. The court, however, did not grant bail to Arafat.

Hearing writ petitions, the court also ordered the Anti-Corruption Commission and the chief metropolitan magistrate of Dhaka to explain in six weeks the legality of bringing the case under the Emergency Powers Rules. The government is likely to prefer an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against the High Court orders, said sources in the attorney general’s office.

The commission’s deputy director, Golam Shahriar Chowdhury, filed the corruption case on September 2 with the Tejgaon police against 13 people, including Khaleda and Arafat, on charge of awarding a contract to “an incompetent and unfit firm, GATCO,” to handle containers at the Inland Container Depot in Dhaka and at Chittagong port in exchange of bribe. Police arrested Khaleda and Arafat the next day.

Khaleda and Arafat filed two writ petitions challenging the legality of the commission’s move of bringing the case under the ambit of the Emergency Powers Rules. Pleading for them, their counsel Rafique-ul Huq told the court that the case was brought under the Emergency Powers Rules in violation of the constitution and law.

Article 35 of the constitution stipulates, “No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than, or different from, that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.”

Referring to the constitutional provision, the counsel argued, “As the alleged offence was committed between 2003 and 2006, much earlier than the enforcement of the Emergency Powers Rules and the Emergency Powers Ordinance, the case cannot be brought under the Emergency Powers Rules.”

He also challenged the authority of the commission secretary of allowing the case to be brought under the Emergency Powers Rules. According to the rules, only the government has the power to give the sanction, he argued. Rafique-ul Huq with Nasiruddin Ashim and Ruhul Quddus Kajal moved the case for Khaleda and Arafat. Deputy attorney general Syeda Afsar Zahan was present during the hearing.