Gazipur Mayor MA Mannan rejoined office on June 18 after fighting legal battles for about two and a half years.
But the Local Government Division (LGD) suspended him for the third time yesterday.
The LGD in a circular said the mayor was suspended as a Gazipur court on January 18 accepted the charge sheet in a corruption case filed against him by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Signed by Deputy Secretary Shahidul Islam, the circular said the suspension order would become effective immediately.
Talking to The Daily Star, Mannan said he would file a writ petition with the High Court on Sunday challenging the suspension order.
“It is painful and pathetic. An elected mayor has been suspended time and again. This wouldn't have happened had there been an elected government.”
Citing the case statement, the circular said Mannan and Golam Kibria, accounts officer of Gazipur City Corporation (GCC), reportedly misappropriated around Tk 49 lakh by abusing power.
There is fear that if Mannan continues in office, it might weaken the moral courage of the city corporation employees and evidence of the case might be destroyed, said the LGD.
The ACC had submitted the charge sheet in the graft case to Gazipur Special Judge's Court on January 12 this year.
A large number of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami-backed mayors, councillors, chairmen and vice-chairmen have been suspended over the last couple of years under two provisions of the Local Government (City Corporation) Act, 2009.
While enforcing the law, the LGRD ministry's Local Government Division has all along been strict about the elected public representatives backed by the BNP and Jamaat.
According to sections 12 and 13 of the Act, a mayor or a councillor, if convicted or charge-sheeted in a criminal case, can be suspended.
The law also stipulates that any elected public representative can be removed from office for skipping three consecutive general meetings of a local government body without valid grounds.
Data of the LGRD ministry shows that 24 mayors of city corporations and municipalities, 28 upazila chairmen, 13 upazila vice chairmen and over 150 union parishad chairmen and members have been suspended till June last year as they were charge-sheeted in criminal cases, including for arson and murder between 2014 and 2015.
MAYOR ARRESTED, FREED
Mannan, an adviser to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, was elected Gazipur mayor in July 2013. But he could discharge duties for only around 18 months as he spent most of the rest of the time behind bars.
He beat Awami League-backed candidate Ajmat Ullah Khan by around one and a half lakh votes in the July 6, 2013 mayoral polls. He took office on August 18 that year.
On February 11, 2015, police arrested Mannan, an accused in 30 cases, over his suspected involvement in an arson attack on a bus in Gazipur on February 4.
The next month, Panel Mayor Asadur Rahman Kiron, an AL leader and councillor of the GCC, was made the acting mayor upon a court directive.
Mannan was released from jail on bail on March 2 last year. However, he was picked up again on April 15 in the same year.
The BNP leader walked free from jail on January 7 this year.
SC FOR AMENDING LAW
Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation, was suspended twice in 2015 and 2017. He filed a writ petition with the HC challenging the legality of the suspension order and won the legal battle.
The government then moved the Supreme Court over the verdict. The apex court on March 5 this year upheld the HC verdict.
The SC in its judgment said it found arbitrary exercise of discretionary power in case of Bulbul's suspension.
The HC verdict said, “But the government has opted not to suspend those councillors. Such an action against the writ-petitioner [Bulbul] is no doubt discriminatory and arbitrary.”
The HC also asked the LGRD ministry to take necessary steps to bring to the notice of the government authorities concerned and parliament the issue of amending the provision on suspension of city mayors and councillors.
It asked for incorporating necessary guidelines for building an objective opinion so that the authorities may take a fair, reasonable and equitable decision on suspension of an elected mayor or councillor.
In the appeal, the attorney general drew the Supreme Court's attention to the HC directive on amending the provision, and argued that one branch of the state cannot give such a directive to another.
The SC didn't deny the necessity of amending the provision. It said, “The above directive is a pious wish of the court. The government and the parliament may consider amending the section.”