Dark law to shield killers
Just forty-one days into the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an indemnity ordinance was promulgated by Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, who grabbed state power immediately after the killing by putting martial law in place.
The only aim of the ordinance issued on September 26, 1975 was to block any legal or other proceedings against the killers and those who were involved in proclaiming the martial law on the morning of August 15, 1975.
The culture of impunity started in the country as well as a culture of violence surfaced in politics since legalising the killing of Bangabandhu, shielding the self-confessed killers.
"Whereas it is expedient to restrict the taking of any legal or other proceedings in respect of certain acts or things done in connection with, or in preparation or execution of any plan for, or steps necessitating, the historical change and the proclamation of martial law on the morning of the 15th August, 1975," said the gazette notification of the ordinance.
After coming back to power in 1996, Awami League scrapped the ordinance in the same year to pave the way for trial of Bangabandhu killers.
On November 12, 1996, parliament passed the Indemnity (Repeal) Act. The BNP and Jamaat-e Islami lawmakers who are beneficiaries of the August changeover remained absent from parliament during the passage of the bill.
The Indemnity (Repeal) Act paved the way for the trial of those involved in the 1975 killings. However, it was challenged in the High Court by the families of two ex-army officers charged with the killings. They argued that the "Indemnity Ordinance" had become a statute of the constitution and could not be repealed by a simple majority in parliament as had been the case; but that it should have been repealed by a two-third majority as is normally required for constitutional amendments. In January 1997, the High Court rejected their writ petitions.
General Zia indemnified all activities including the killings since August 15, 1975 to April 9, 1979 by passing the Constitution Fifth Amendment Act in the second parliament, which was dominated by his party lawmakers.
After years of waiting, the verdict of Bangabandhu killing case is set to come out today as per the Appellate Division's decision. A long dark chapter is going to be over.