The High Court (HC) will deliver its order today on three writ petitions filed by BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia challenging the Election Commission’s order that upheld the returning officers’ decision to reject her nomination papers.
After today’s HC decision, it’ll be known if Khaleda Zia can participate in the forthcoming general election. The HC bench, comprising Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir, yesterday fixed the date after concluding hearing on her appeals.
During the hearing, advocate AJ Mohammad Ali argued for Khaleda while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam stood for the state. During hearing, AJ Mohammad Ali told the court that the election commission cancelled the nomination papers of the BNP chief illegally with malafide intention.
The commission in its rejection orders said that the BNP chief violated the electoral code of conduct. But, the BNP chief had been languishing in jail since February 8. So, how could she violate the electoral code of conduct, Ali asked.
Opposing his submission, Attorney General Alam told the court that as per Article 66 (2) (D) of the Constitution, a convicted person cannot take part in an election.
Article 66 (2) (D) says, ’A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of Parliament who—has been, on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.’
The chief law officer of the state also said that, recently, five convicted BNP leaders filed appeals against their conviction seeking stay order on their conviction so that they can contest in the upcoming election. But, the HC rejected their appeals and the Appellate Division also upheld the HC order. So, there is no scope for the convicted person to run in an election, Alam said.
Advocate AJ Mohammad Ali, counsel for Khaleda, told the court that many convicted persons had earlier become MPs and even ministers after submitting that their appeals were pending disposal.
Ali referred to former AL minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, who was a minister although he was a convicted person. His appeals were pending before the High Court and he got AL nomination and became a MP and a minister, Ali said, adding that there is no problem if the candidature of BNP chief would valid by the HC.
Opposing his submission, Attorney General Alam said that the High Court, in 1996, had declared illegal the membership of Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad as he was a convicted person at that time.
After completing hearing from both sides, the HC bench fixed today as the date for delivering its order on the petitions.
Khaleda, a former prime minister, yesterday filed the petitions also seeking HC directives to the EC to accept the nomination papers so that she can contest from Bogura-6, Bogura-7, and Feni-1 constituencies.
Her nominations for Feni-1, Bogura-6 and -7 constituencies have been rejected by returning officers. The election commission also upheld the decisions, prompting the former prime minister to move the High Court yesterday. On behalf of Khaleda, Kaisar Kamal filed the appeal for Feni-1, while Nowshad Jamin filed for Bogura-6, and Masud Ahmed Talukder for Bogura-7.
After hearing on the petitions, Masud Ahmed Talukder, one of Khaleda’s lawyers, said, "We’re optimistic about getting justice. If we don’t, then we’ve the option to move the Appellate Division."
Khaleda Zia was jailed for five years on February 8 this year in relation to the Zia Orphanage Trust embezzlement case. Her punishment was doubled by the High Court on October 30. A day before that, she was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment by a special court also in connection with the Zia Charitable Trust embezzlement case.