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9 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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‘No barrier to contesting polls if she appeals’

Harun ur Rashid and Muhammad Yeasin

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, convicted for five years in jail in a graft case, will be qualified for the next parliamentary elections if she files an appeal with the High Court (HC) challenging the verdict, legal experts said. Citing existing electoral laws, an election commissioner, requesting anonymity, said since Khaleda has been convicted for five years, she stands disqualified for contesting elections until she files an appeal with the High Court.

Legal experts echoed the election commissioner, saying the BNP chief can contest polls if she files an appeal with the HC because the case will then turn into a sub-judice matter.

However, some legal experts deferred with the opinion and said Khaleda will be able to contest polls only if she can secure a stay order against the lower court verdict. Article 12(1) (d) of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972 says that a person shall be disqualified for election if he/she is “convicted of an offence punishable under Article 73, 74, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, and 86 and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years” until five years has elapsed since the date of his/her release.

Also, according to Article 66(1) (d) of the Constitution, a person who “has been, upon conviction for a criminal offence, involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years” shall be disqualified for election as a member of Parliament, until five years have elapsed since his/her release.

Law minister Anisul Huq said yesterday that the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC) and the Election Commission (EC) will decide whether Khaleda can contest the polls.

“There are two verdicts of the HC and the SC in this regard. One says that a verdict will not be considered complete unless the appeal against it is disposed of as well. Hence, the convicted person can take part in the elections,” he explained.

“There is another verdict against this (the one mentioned above). Now, it all depends on the decision the Appellate Division and the EC will take regarding her (Khaleda’s) case,” he added.

Opposing the law minister’s comment, former BNP law minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed said the law minister could not specify the matter on whether the BNP chief could take part in the next elections or not.

“The BNP chief will take part in the next elections. This is the first court’s verdict. Now, it will go to the High Court and then Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. We think that the BNP chief will take part in the elections until the Supreme Court deliver final verdict in the case,” Moudud said.  

Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and BNP vice-chairperson Joynul Abedin said that there is no problem for the BNP chief to take part in the elections, if the HC stays the lower court verdict.

“This is not the final verdict. So, the question whether the BNP chief will able to take part in the next elections is quite immature. It is possible for her to join the polls as per the existing law,” he added.

Former SCBA secretary and current Awami League legal affairs secretary SM Rezaul Karim, said: “There will be no problem for her to take part in the next election if she gets a order from the HC against the lower court verdict.”

However, irrespective of whether Khaleda takes part in the election or not, her party has to fight the next general polls or risk losing its registration. The political party registration law says that if a party does not take part in the general elections for two terms, its registration will be cancelled.

The BNP and some other parties had boycotted the last parliamentary polls held in 2014. So, this time, the party has to fight the polls if it wants to keep its registration with the EC.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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