SC rules no court can grant bail in EPR cases
Thursday, 24 April 2008

Staff Correspondent

The Supreme Court has ruled against granting bail to detainees held in EPR cases that are under investigation.

An full Appellate Division bench, headed by chief justice Md Ruhul Amin, gave the ruling Wednesday in favour of the government appeal challenging a High Court verdict that had granted bail in a case file under emergency powers rules last year.

On Mar 29 last year, Khulna oil trader Maijuddin Shikder made a bail plea to the High Court in a case filed under EPR that accused him of selling adulterated oil. The second amendment to the Emergency Powers Ordinance dated Mar 21, 2007, had imposed strict and stringent conditions regarding bail in such cases.

In the bail hearing the state's counsel argued that as per section 19 (Gha) of the amendment, no accused can appeal for bail in any court or tribunal, including the High Court, while investigation in a case filed under EPR is ongoing.

Attorney general barrister Fida M Kamal told bdnews24.com after the ruling: "The Supreme Court has granted the appeal filed by the government challenging the High Court verdict."

Maijuddin's lawyer advocate Abdul Matin Khasru told bdnews24.com: "The Supreme Court has nullified the High Court verdict." "The High Court had said, 'court or tribunal doesn't refer to the higher court in this case'. Therefore, the High Court is able to accept bail pleas in such cases."

"But the Supreme Court has made it clear that the nomenclature 'court' or 'tribunal' will also apply to the higher court in this case," Khasru said. The High Court bench had appointed senior lawyers of the higher courts as amici curiae for guidance during the original bail hearing.

According to the senior lawyers and the bail petitioner's counsel, the executive authorities did not have jurisdiction for formulating any rule that says 'an accused cannot appeal for bail in court', which opposes the constitution and fundamental human rights.

The terms 'court' or 'tribunal' cited in the Emergency Powers Ordinance do not apply to the higher court, they added. The amici curiae also argued that the matter of bail is not mentioned in the main body of the Emergency Powers Ordinance, yet the amendment attaches a prohibition on bail. No amendment can be formulated in contradiction of the main law, they said.

On these arguments, the High Court bench of justices Nazrul Islam Chowdhury and SM Emdadul Haque granted Maijuddin bail on Apr 22.

The government sought permission to appeal against the HC verdict, which the Appellate Division gave on Sept 20. The Appellate Division concluded hearing on the appeal on Apr 15, with barrister Fida M Kamal as the state's counsel presenting the same arguments as in the HC bail hearing, based on the amendment to the Emergency Powers Ordinance.

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