The High Court yesterday directed the government to recognise 2,367 members of a special guerrilla force, who participated in the 1971 Liberation War, as freedom fighters.
Responding to a writ petition, it declared illegal the government's decision voiding recognition of the guerrilla fighters as freedom fighters on October 29, 2014 and ordered the government to give them status, dignity and facilities on a par with freedom fighters.
The special guerrilla force was formed with leaders and activists of the National Awami Party (NAP), Communist Party and Chhatra Union after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence of the country on March 26, 1971, said petitioner's lawyer Subrata Chowdhury.
The deputy commanders of the guerrilla force formally surrendered their arms to Bangabandhu at Dhaka National Stadium on January 30 the following year, he added.
An HC bench of Justice Gobinda Chandra Tagore and Justice Abu Taher Md Saifur Rahman delivered yesterday's verdict after the hearing on the writ petition filed on January 19 last year by Pankaj Bhattacharya, a deputy commander of the guerrilla force.
Subrata said the court passed its judgment on the grounds that the guerrilla fighters had fought in the war and worked as well to drum up international support for liberation of the then East Pakistan from West Pakistan.
The liberation war affairs ministry issued a gazette in July 2013 proclaiming members of the guerilla force, including Comrade Moni Singh and NAP President Prof Mozaffar Ahmed, freedom fighters. The two were advisers to the government-in-exile in 1971.
The government, as recommended by Jatiyo Muktijoddha Council, cancelled their recognition in 2014, which was illegal, Subrata said, adding that the HC order would have a retrospective effect from the day the gazette notification had been issued.
Referring to the HC observations, the lawyer said the government had not issued any show-cause notice to the guerrilla force members before the cancellation of their recognition, which was a serious violation of the principles of natural justice.
The government-in-exile and the government led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had recognised the guerrilla fighters as freedom fighters, the lawyer said. The names of the members had been published in government notifications too, he added.
Deputy Attorney General ASM Nazmul Haque told The Daily Star that an appeal would be moved before the Appellate Division, challenging the HC verdict if the authorities instructed his office to do so.
The liberation war affairs ministry cancelled its 2013 notification since the members of the guerrilla force had been given recognition under the banners of organisations like NAP, Communist Party and Chhatra Union.
Freedom fighters receive recognition following their individual application submitted under the Muktijoddha Command Council Act, 2002, the DAG added.