A Supreme Court full bench today upheld a High Court verdict that declared illegal the government circulars and gazette notifications fixing the minimum age of freedom fighters at 12 and a half years in 1971.
A four-member bench of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed “no order” on a government petition seeking stay order on the High Court verdict.
The Supreme Court’s “no order” means the High Court verdict will remain in force, writ petitioner's counsel Barrister ABM Altaf Hossain told The Daily Star.
He, however, said the government can move a leave-to-appeal petition before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict after receiving full text of the High Court verdict.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam appeared for the state.
On June 19, the Supreme Court chamber judge upheld the High Court verdict that declared illegal the government circulars and gazette notifications.
Chamber Judge of the SC’s Appellate Division Justice Md Nuruzzaman also sent the writ petition, filed by the government seeking a stay on the HC judgement, to the full bench of the apex court for its hearing today (June 23).
Following 15 separate writ petitions filed by several freedom fighters, the HC on May 19 declared illegal and unconstitutional the circulars and gazette notifications, which fixed the minimum age of freedom fighters at 12 and a half years in 1971.
According to the gazette notification issued on January 17 last year by the liberation war affairs ministry, people who were aged at least 12 and a half years on November 30, 1971, would be eligible to apply for the status of a freedom fighter.
Earlier in November 2016, the ministry issued a circular and gazette notification imposing the minimum age of freedom fighters at 13 on March 26, 1971.
The government has so far changed the definition of freedom fighters 10 times and it’s list six times since the country’s independence. A scrutiny of the war heroes’ list is currently underway again.
On May 19, the HC in a verdict said that the definition of freedom fighters was determined by the President’s Order 94 of 1972. It can only be changed by the parliament, not by a circular or gazette.
The President’s Order 94 of 1972 does not allow the government to fix or re-fix the age of the freedom fighters, the HC said.