Referring to Ekattor TV allowing Proshanta Kumar Halder to participate in a live talk show and interview, the High Court has observed that no one accused or convicted of non-bailable, cognisable offences is entitled to any comment or interview through the media.
PK Halder, former managing director of NRB Global Bank, is a fugitive accused in a money-laundering case.
The HC also directed the private television channel to submit on January 10 the video clips of the interview and conversations PK Halder, who fled the country after allegedly siphoning off around Tk 10,200 crore from some non-banking financial institutions, had with the channel on December 28.
“Our concrete and considered view is that the accused, the convict, the fugitive and convicted accused of non-bailable and cognisable offences who are wanted by the court are not entitled to make any comments or interviews before TV channels, electronic media, print media, social media or any other media in respect to the case during its pendency for trial and investigation because it may create confusion, affect the merit of the case and also lower the image and sanctity of the judiciary and the investigating agency,” the HC bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Ahmed Sohel said.
The HC bench made the observation in the full text of an order issued on December 30 last year following a petition filed by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) seeking necessary directives against the authorities concerned of Ekattor TV for allowing PK Halder to participate in a live talk show and broadcasting his interview.
The HC bench said as per section 59 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), every person is bound to assist the court and the investigating agency to prevent the escape of someone accused of non-bailable and cognisable offences, and assist in the arrest if asked.
“Besides, any private person may also arrest any accused of non-bailable and cognizable offences and then hand him or her to a police officer and/or the nearest police station, as the case may be. But, in this case, the authorities of Ekattor TV, instead of upholding the mandate and spirit of the law, allowed an absconding accused [Halder] to participate in a live talk show, which is a despicable act on the part of the authorities of Ekattor TV and also contrary to the spirit of the law,” the HC bench said in the full text.
“In addition, the freedom of thought, conscience and speech of an absconding accused are not allowed to be expressed freely in TV news and TV talk shows with regard to the sub-judice matter when the said matter is in the session of the court,” the HC said.
“In conclusion, we want to make one thing clear — that the purpose of giving aforesaid observations and outlines is not to throttle the voice of media, but the court expects that the media should follow the provisions of law and the constitution while reporting on any sensitive issues which are sub-judice, within the session of the court and under investigation, ” the HC bench said.
In the full text of the order, the HC also restrained by an order of injunction the authorities concerned of all media from participating, publishing, broadcasting any statement, comment, interview and conversation of anyone accused and convicted of non-bailable and cognisable offences in TV news and talk shows with regard to the cases pending before the court or investigating agency till further order.
The channel broadcast an interview of PK Halder at 10:00pm on December 28 and connected him to the talk show Ekattor Journal at 11:30pm the same day. PK Halder refuted the allegations of laundering a huge amount of money abroad.
On December 30, ACC’s lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan and Deputy Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin Manik prayed to the HC bench to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the authorities concerned of Ekattor TV.
In a suo moto (voluntary) rule issued on November 18 last year, the HC bench led by Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder ordered the authorities concerned of the government and the ACC to explain the steps taken to arrest PK Halder and bring him back to the country.
In the rule, the court also asked the authorities to show cause as to why their inaction and failure in arresting and bringing PK Halder back home should not be declared illegal.
On October 21 last year, another HC bench directed law enforcement authorities to arrest PK Halder immediately after his return home.
According to Canadian media reports, PK Halder is now staying in Toronto. He is director of P&L Hal Holding Inc, a Canadian corporation.
In an investigation, the central bank found that Tk 1,596 crore was transferred from International Leasing and Financial Services (ILFSL) in violation of the rules through 48 accounts of various organisations related to the directors and shareholders of the firm, according to BB officials.
PK Halder came into public view during the anti-casino drives in 2019 when the ACC had opened investigations into the involvement of 43 people, including PK Halder, in the illegal casino business.
The government issued a travel ban on him on October 3, 2019, but he managed to flee the country. On January 8 last year, the anti-graft body filed a case against PK Halder on charges of illegally amassing wealth worth Tk 275 crore.