A court order that banned convicts with prison sentences of more than two years from parliamentary elections came as bad news for Khaleda Zia, the jailed opposition leader. It appears that Khaleda, the former prime minister, will be shut out of the election set for Dec 30. Two High Court judges, Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukdar and Justice KM Hafizul Alam, cited the constitution in announcing the ruling.
The High Court has said those who were jailed for more than two years and whose appeals were still pending with courts, cannot compete in the election.
The order was passed on Tuesday in response to an appeal that sought 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.
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, according to the court observation.
The order clearly ruined Khaledas prospects of entering the race, in a serious blow to the BNP, a key ally of Jatiya Oikya Front.
Khaleda was sentenced to 17 years in jail in two graft cases.
The convicts are not eligible for the election, said ACCs 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 courts observation.”
On a question whether Khaleda would have the opportunity to participate in the election after the court order, he said, “Not at all. Thats what I said earlier. If she is acquitted or the penalty has been cancelled, she will be able to compete. Todays order has made it evident once again.”
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.
The BNP has criticised the court order dismissing it as the “reflection of the governments wishes”.
“The ruling is not acceptable to us at all. We are aggrieved and are protesting it strongly," said BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir in response to the High Court order.
The ruling led to a lot of questions, he said. “Its an attempt to interrupt the election, resist the BNP and the Jatiya Oikya Front and deny the public of their rights.”
KHALEDAS LAWYERS STILL HOPEFUL
Supreme Court Bar Association President Zainul Abedin, one of the lawyers for Khaleda, does not agree with the attorney general or the ACC counsel.
Citing a judgment of former chief justice Mustafa Kamal, he said, “Election is a persons constitutional right. According to the constitution, if an appeal is filed against a trial court conviction, then the convict cannot be kept away from election.”
“The appeal is the continuation of process until the Supreme Court confirms the sentence. In that case, I dont see any obstacle to contesting in polls while an appeal is pending hearings,” he added.
The lawyer thinks the Appellate Division will have to give a specific verdict in such cases.
Asked if the BNP was planning to move the appeals court against the latest High Court judgment disqualifying its leaders from election, he said, “Weve already submitted nomination for Khaleda Zia. We will have to go to the Appellate Division if the Election Commission rejects her papers.”