From the Court Corridor: October 2022
This edition of ‘From the Court Corridor’ curates the notable pronouncements of the High Court Division (HCD) and the Appellate Division (AD) of the Supreme Court (SC) of Bangladesh in October 2022.
The HCD observes journalists are not bound to reveal their sources.
On 21 October 2022, during a hearing, the HCD bench comprising Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo observed that journalists are not bound to reveal the sources of the information they use in their reports. The Court also added that if anyone has a complaint about any news, the concerned party should go to the Press Council before filing the complaint in the HCD. The Council shall take necessary steps as per the Press Council Act, 1974.
Observing the verdict of 50 pages, the HCD opined that media and journalists can constitutionally and legally provide news in the public interest against corruption and corruptors. The HCD also mentioned that journalists work as watchdogs. They disperse information not to undermine any person, but to serve the cause of justice. The HCD also discouraged yellow journalism.
The HCD gave the verdict on a petition filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) against Daily Inqilab’s senior journalist Sayeed Ahmed Khan on a report of corruption. The concerned report prepared was about the corruption allegations against Ashraful Alam, former engineer of the Public Works Department, and his wife Sabiha Alam. It is mentioned that around BDT 20 crore was spent just to have the allegations disposed of.
The ACC filed the prayer after the HCD bench issued a suo motu rule on 8 March 2021, enquiring about the actions taken in response to the report “20 Kotite Prokousholi Ashrafuler Daaymukti! Durniti Domone ‘Dudok Style’”(“২০ কোটিতে প্রকৌশলী আশরাফুলের দায়মুক্তি! দুর্নীতি দমনে “দুদক স্টাইল“) published by the Daily Inqilab on 3 March 2021.
Journalists are constitutionally and legally authorized to expose corruption for the welfare of the citizens. Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh provides for freedom of press. This right can be restricted only by the action of law for the interest of the society. Journalism should be fearless in presenting the true picture of society. For several years, freedom of journalism has been questioned in various aspects. This is a timely response for the journalists from the apex court.
On 23 October 2022 the AD of the SC cleared the way for holding Bangladesh Bank Assistant Director recruitment test, which was scheduled to happen on 28 October. Justice M Enayetur Rahim, Chamber Judge of the Appellate Division, passed the order after hearing a petition filed by the Bangladesh Bank against the HCD order.
A HCD bench comprising Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo imposed a stay on the recruitment test after holding a hearing on a writ petition filed by the State.
The central bank authorities published the circular for the Assistant Director (general) recruitment on 10 May 2022. A candidate named Mirja Rakibul Hasan filed the writ, challenging the maximum age limit mentioned in the circular. Authorities had been asked to fix the maximum age limit by 25 March 2020, in the notifications that will be published till 30 June 2023. The notification of the Bangladesh Bank was not issued in compliance with the age limit fixed by the Ministry of Public Administration.
For the faulty age limit, many job aspirants like the victim in this case are deprived of the opportunity to apply for the position. Article 40 of the Constitution of Bangladesh gives the citizens the right to enter any lawful occupation and business. The victim and other aspirants are entitled to this right too and they are being deprived only for this faulty age limit. The AD stayed a HCD’s order that halted for one month the effectiveness of a Bangladesh Bank circular issued for recruiting its ADs.
The HCD asks to show cause why adequate compensation should not be given to Joj Miah
On 25 October 2022 the HCD bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo asked the respondent to clarify why they should not compensate Md. Jalal who had been branded as Joj Miah and wrongfully detained in jail for four years suspected of being linked with the 21st August grenade attack in 2004. The Court also asked them to demonstrate why the detention of Md Jalal should not be declared illegal.
Md Jalal filed a writ petition on 12 September 2022 in the HCD seeking its order on five convicts namely, former State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar, then Inspector General of Police Khodabox Chowdhury, ex-Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and Investigation Officer Abdur Rashid; ex-ASP Munshi Atiqur Rahman and ex-Special Superintendent of Police Md Ruhul Amin to compensate him with BDT 10 crore for violating his fundamental rights due to the wrongful confinement.
Wrongful imprisonment does a serious violation of constitutional human rights. Personal liberty should not be curtailed in any wrongful manner. Police officers have been given sufficient power to arrest a person without a warrant but the police can exercise the power only in those circumstances where a police officer possesses some evidence indicating involvement with the offence under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Article 32 of the Constitution of Bangladesh states that ‘[n]o person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.’This also violates the right provided under Article 21and 27 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. As a victim of this gross violation of constitutional rights, Md Jalal also branded as Joj Miah, has the right to get adequate compensation.
The SC clears the way to continue to graft trial against Mirza Abbas
The AD on 25 October 2022 rejected an appeal to suspend proceedings of a graft case against BNP leader and former minister Mirza Abbas. The order was passed by a bench of five justices led by Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique.
The appeal was filed against the order of HCD passed on 11 November 2018 where the HCD had cleared the way for the Dhaka Special Judge Court-6 to resume the trial proceedings of the corruption case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). On 16 August 2007, the ACC Assistant Director Md Shafiul Alam filed a case with Ramna Police Station for acquiring BDT 5.97 crore in excess of his income and concealing information of BDT 33.48 lakh.
The graft case against Mirza Abbas had faced several complicated ups and downs since 2007. From the final verdict released from the apex court, the lower court gets access to continue the graft trial. However, the full text of the dismissal order is not released yet.