Order on Khaleda's bail today
The Supreme Court delivers an order today on four petitions filed in connection with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's bail in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case in which she was jailed for five years.
A four-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain yesterday fixed the date for passing the order after hearing arguments on the petitions.
The government and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on March 15 filed two leave-to-appeal petitions with the SC challenging a High Court order that granted bail to Khaleda.
The petitions also sought extension of the SC order that stayed the bail order until yesterday.
Khaleda on March 14 also filed two petitions with the SC seeking the apex court's order to vacate its stay.
Earlier, the SC stayed the bail order the same day following two separate petitions filed by the ACC and the government. The apex court also asked the ACC and the government to file separate leave-to-appeal petitions against the HC order by yesterday.
Khaleda landed in prison on February 8 after she was handed the five-year jail sentence by a Dhaka court for misappropriating a donation fund of the Zia Orphanage Trust.
The HC on March 12 granted her four months' bail on four grounds: a short sentence of five years, health condition, her facing trial, and that the case records have reached the court.
During hearing yesterday, ACC lawyer Advocate Khurshid Alam Khan told the SC that Khaleda did not submit any medical certificate in support of her claim that she has been suffering from various diseases.
Khaleda has misused bail as she went abroad during trial at the lower court, he argued.
The ACC lawyer further argued that five years' imprisonment is not a short term and Khaleda cannot be granted bail on that ground.
Citing from an earlier judgement of the SC, the lawyer told the apex court that the then chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed had not granted bail to an accused, who was convicted and sentenced to only two years' imprisonment in a narcotics case.
The HC did not accept this logic in granting the bail to Khaleda, he said, adding that the HC order granting the bail was contrary to the decision of Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed.
Advocate Khurshid Alam said the trial court sentenced Khaleda to five years' imprisonment considering her status, old age and being a woman, although the same court has sentenced other accused to 10 years' imprisonment.
Khaleda cannot get bail on the same ground, he argued.
The ACC lawyer added Khaleda has so far served only two months and 25 days in jail including one month during the caretaker regime in connection with the case.
She might be in jail for four months until the paper book of the case is prepared, as the HC on March 12 ordered the office concerned to prepare the paper book in four months.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told the SC that the defence have done everything to delay the trial at the lower court since 2009.
They had submitted no confidence petitions in two judges -- Abu Ahmed Jomadar and Kamrul Hossain Mollah -- of the trial court and the government transferred them, he said, adding that they moved several petitions before the HC and the Appellate Division for staying the trial court proceedings.
He said the HC office concerned had prepared the paper book of the BDR carnage case in which 152 people were convicted and sentenced to death.
The office can prepare the paper book of the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case in four months and the appeal filed by Khaleda challenging the trial court verdict can be heard and disposed of in four months, he said, adding that the HC order of bail might be stayed till hearing of the appeal.
Citing the example of former president HM Ershad's conviction and sentence in the Janata Tower corruption case, the attorney general said the former dictator had been in jail for three and a half years.
Khaleda's lawyer Advocate AJ Mohamad Ali told the SC that the HC may or may not grant bail to a convict when his or her appeal is pending against the trial court verdict.
But, it is usual that the HC would grant bail to a convict when the appeal is pending, he said, adding that granting bail to a convict is a discretionary power of the HC.
He added the HC granted bail to her client on grounds that the trial court has given her a short sentence and the HC has assigned the reasons behind granting the bail, and therefore, the Appellate Division might not interfere in the HC order or bail.
The defence lawyer further said the HC had earlier granted bail to two convicts who were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in separate criminal cases and the Appellate Division did not interfere in the HC orders for bail.
Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain, another lawyer for Khaleda, told the SC that the attorney general and the ACC lawyer had taken this case with importance as the accused is Khaleda.