Heated argument between Khaleda’s lawyers and chief justice marks her bail block
A fiery argument between the pro-BNP lawyers and Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain at the Supreme Court has been capped off by the Supreme Court blocking Khaleda Zia’s bail.
The four-strong Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Hossain on Wednesday froze until Sunday the four-month interim bail.
The latest order by the apex court means the State and the Anti-Corruption Commission or ACC will be able to file regular appeals seeking permission to challenge the High Court’s bail order.
Lawyers for Khaleda, irked by the stay order, say it has ‘undermined the image’ of the Supreme Court.
The lawyers for the BNP chief, however, did not get orders in their favour when they moved a Comilla court against a previous order showing her arrested in a case of violence during protests in 2015.
It means Khaleda has to remain in jail even if the Supreme Court upholds the High Court’s bail order and until the Comilla court gives an order in her favour.
The former prime minister has been serving a five-year prison sentence in the old Dhaka Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road since Feb 8 when a Dhaka court convicted her of misusing international donations meant for an orphanage.After the High Court granted her bail on Monday, the State and the ACC moved the chamber judge, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique on Tuesday, seeking a stay on the bail order.
The chamber judge, however, forwarded the case for hearing to the full bench of the Appellate Division without blocking it.
When ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam started making his arguments on Wednesday, Chief Justice Hossain asked him to bring first the civil petition (CP) for leave to appeal, or a petition seeking permission to challenge any order.
“The civil petition hasn’t arrived yet. We’ll see the matter when it comes,” Justice Hossain said.
He then asked Khurshid whether they got a copy of the chamber judge’s order. The ACC lawyer said they did not get the copy on Tuesday as the office hours ended at 5pm.
He said they would submit the CP after getting a copy of the order.
“That’s why we’ve sought a stay until Sunday or Monday,” he said.
“File the CP first. It’s stayed until then,” the chief justice said at this point.
Then, two of Khaleda’s lawyers – former attorney general AJ Mohammad Ali and Supreme Court Bar Association President Zainal Abedin – stood up.
“Won’t you like to hear from us? Have you issued a stay order without hearing us?” Abedin asked the chief justice.
The chief justice replied, “It has been stayed until Sunday. We will hear (from you) on that day.”
Abedin said, “You’ve issued the order without hearing from us. We have something to say.”
“Please let the court work in its own way,” Justice Hossain told the BNP lawyers.
Abedin then said the court should not stay the High Court’s bail order in such a way that can “damage public perception about the court”.
“The court doesn’t think about public perception,” the chief justice replied.
Khaleda’s counsel pointed out that the chamber judge did not stay the High Court’s bail order. “When the accused is not getting out, what’s the need for a stay?” he asked.
Mohammad Ali stood up again at the time and said, “We haven’t been given a chance (to speak) at the hearing. It contravenes the proper judicial system.”
Paying no attention to what the BNP lawyers were saying, the court continued with other cases on the cause list as per the schedule; but the pro-BNP lawyers remained on their feet in the courtroom.
“Why are you still standing (here)? This is against the decorum of the court. How will we work if you keep standing like this?” the chief justice asked them.
“You’ve issued a one-sided stay order without hearing from us. You must hear from us. Why won’t you hear?” former SCBA vice-president Gias Uddin Ahmad asked the chief justice.
“Do I need to know from you whom should we hear?” the chief justice asked.
“You must hear from us,” Gias Uddin replied.
“Are you threatening the court? This is too much!” Justice Hossain said.
“You must listen to us before issuing the order,” Gias Uddin said.
“Don’t threaten (the court),” the chief justice asked the pro-BNP lawyer.
The BNP-backed lawyers then turned up the volume and began to speak loudly.
SCBA General Secretary Mahbub Uddin Khokon, addressing Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, said at the time, “You’ve ruined the court.”
As the top legal officer of the state remained silent, a group of lawyers left the courtroom, shouting: “Agent! (Government) agent!”
The pro-BNP lawyers later took out a procession demanding resignation of the chief justice.
Abedin told the media later that the stay order ‘deeply saddened’ them.
“The judiciary has never been like this. We haven’t expected this of the judiciary. I am lost for words,” he said.
ACC lawyer Khurshid said he was ‘happy’ at the stay order. He said they would file the appeal challenging the High Court’s bail order on Wednesday or within Thursday afternoon.
Attorney General Alam criticised the pro-BNP lawyers for quarrelling with the chief justice.
He said the Supreme Court only followed the normal procedure to hear such cases.