Can Khaleda Zia contest the polls?
Nomination papers have been collected for BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia willing to contest the coming general elections from three constituencies, despite her conviction in two graft cases.
However, questions arise as to whether she will be able to take part in the elections, overcoming legal barriers.
Khaleda Zia may face legal challenges in participating in the polls after the High Court on Tuesday said graft convicts of more than two years of jail term with appeal pending will not be allowed to contest elections.
Still, there may be one legal path open for the former prime minister, Khaleda, to contest the polls, two law officers of the state told Prothom Alo.
This may happen if she manages to secure clear guidelines from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for joining the polls. “She has little time indeed for such a process,” one of the officers said.
The High Court observed that if someone is sentenced to over two years’ jail by a lower court in any graft case. The court also said such convicts will be able to contest the polls if the Appellate Division stays the conviction or grants bail to the convicts.
The HC judgement came rejecting separate petitions filed by five BNP leaders — Amanullah Aman, physician AZM Zahid, Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Abdul Wahab and Mashiur Rahman – seeking stay on conviction and sentence. They will not likely be able to contest the polls, in view of the HC order.
Khaleda Zia was awarded five years’ imprisonment in Zia Orphanage Trust case in February and the High Court raised her jail term to 10 years. She has been sentenced seven years’ imprisonment in Zia Charitable Trust case, against which she filed appeal petition.
The BNP chairperson’s adviser and senior lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain said Khaleda Zia has been convicted in ‘fictitious’ cases as part of conspiracy to keep her away from elections and politics. “Unless the conviction is suspended, a convict will not be able to take part in the elections as per constitution,” he added.
The government side always said the prospect of Khaleda Zia’s joining elections depends on the court.
However, the attorney general and other and pro-government lawyers said she will not be able to take part in the elections after her conviction.
Khaleda Zia’s lawyer Kaiser Kamal termed the cases in which she has been convicted as politically motivated ones, while law affairs secretary of the ruling Awami League SM Rezaul Karim denied the allegation.
Law minister Anisul Huq pointed out that a person convicted for more than two years in jail in a case of moral turpitude cannot take part in the elections.
He cited two judgements – one verdict said a convict can participate in polls if the Appellate Division stays the operation of the judgement while the other judgement said no to contesting polls.
Senior BNP leader and lawyer Moudud Ahmed claimed that Khaleda Zia will be able to join the polls since the judgement against her is not the final one of any court.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla online, has been rewritten in English by Khawaza Main Uddin