SC upholds Khaleda acquittals in 1996-97 cases
Friday, 28 March 2008

Agency

Former prime minister Khaleda Zia's acquittals in two graft cases filed in 1996 and 1997, were upheld Thursday as the Appellate Division denied the government permission to appeal against the earlier High Court verdicts in the cases.

The six-member full Appellate Division bench headed by chief Justice Md Ruhul Amin turned down the government leaves to appeal filed against the verdicts which had dismissed the two graft cases filed against Khaleda Zia.

In 1996, the then Bureau of Anticorruption had filed a graft case against Khaleda accusing her of the illegal appointment of a police sub-inspector for personal benefit.

In 1997, the bureau had filed another case against Khaleda accusing her of refurbishing her Dhaka Cantonment residence at government expense. Khaleda appealed to the High Court to cancel the cases, as the charge-sheets were being submitted.

The High Court handed down its verdict in 2001 on the refurbishment of her home, and in the police recruitment case in 2002. In both cases, all charges were dismissed. The government sought leave to appeal against the two High Court verdicts, after almost seven years, on Dec 3, 2007.

It further filed a motion seeking pardon for the delay in filing the appeal, which the Appellate Division also denied on Thursday. After Thursday's verdict, additional attorney general Salauddin Ahmed told reporters that it was true though unfortunate that the government had failed to explain its delay in seeking to appeal against the High Court verdicts.

On Jan 16, the Appellate Division chamber judge MA Matin set Mar 27 for a full-bench hearing on the government's leaves to appeal and the motion seeking pardon for the delay.

The appellate bench asked the government to explain its long delay in seeking to appeal. The additional attorney general Salauddin Ahmed replied that the two cases were filed when the former prime minister was in power, and it was impossible for any government-appointed officer of the Bureau of Anticorruption to file an appeal at the time.

As Khaleda Zia was the prime minister, it was mandatory to abide by her wishes, Salauddin said. The additional attorney general also argued that government lawyers of that era did not normally seek to appeal against such verdicts.

The bench countered that it was not mandatory for everyone to go by the prime minster's words, and the government had failed to explain clearly why it had delayed so long in seeking the appeal against the High Court verdicts, or why it had finally decided to appeal against them after so long.

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