Over the past 20 months, the Supreme Court has overturned the High Court's acquittal of 19 people, mostly politicians and their family members, in graft cases and ordered rehearing of their appeals against conviction in lower courts.
But the HC could not hear a single case afresh because its Criminal Appeal Section did not produce the case documents although two HC benches demanded those, Anti-Corruption Commission lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told The Daily Star.
At least 10 of the appeals were even put on the cause list of the HC for hearing, but the court had to drop those later, he said.
The HC is now on a 44-day annual vacation and reopens on November 1. So it cannot rehear any of them before that.
The 19 convicts whose acquittals were scrapped by the SC include Relief and Disaster Management Minster Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, former BNP minister Nazmul Huda and his wife Sigma Huda, former BNP state ministers Iqbal Hasan Mahmood Tuku and Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin, Nasir's son Mir Helal Uddin and independent lawmaker and AL leader Haji Mohammad Selim.
They were sentenced to various terms ranging from three to ten years in prison by lower courts in different graft cases filed by the ACC. The cases were mainly over amassing illegal wealth and concealing wealth information.
Khurshid said that immediately after getting the SC order, the relevant section should have produced the case records before the HC benches for rehearing so that the benches could decide whether the lower court judgments were correct or not.
The SC cancelled the acquittals of the 19 considering the HC verdicts wrong, as the HC did not properly examine relevant evidence and corruption allegations against the accused, the lawyer said.
For its part, the HC had cleared them all in light of an SC judgment that acquitted former Awami League minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir in a similar case.
Apart from the seven already mentioned, the other accused are former BNP state minister Amanullah Aman and his wife Sabera Aman; former AL lawmaker Joynal Abedin Hazari; former BNP legislator Hafiz Ibrahim and his wife Mafruza Sultana; former AL MP Mockbul Hossain and his wife Fatema Tahera Khanam; former commissioner of customs Jahurul Haque and his wife Afia Haque; former BNP lawmaker Rashiduzzaman Millat; former MP of Islami Oikya Jote Mufti Shahidul Islam; and engineer Monjurul Ahsan Munshi.
The SC first quashed the acquittal of Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku on January 27 last year and ordered sending of his appeal to the HC for fresh hearing.
In the meantime, however, five of the 19 filed petitions with the SC for reviewing its judgment. They are Maya, Tuku, Nazmul Huda, Nasiruddin and Helal Uddin. The apex court has yet to hear those.
Contacted, two superintendents of the Criminal Appeal Section of the HC could not say where exactly the case documents are and why those were not placed to the HC.
Mujibur Rahman, a superintendent at the section, told The Daily Star on September 20 that he was unable to trace the documents without their appeal numbers.
According to him, his section sends a case file to the HC only when the court demands it. Asked if the HC asked for any of the case documents, he said he could not remember.
Then on September 21, this correspondent collected the appeal numbers of Maya, Tuku, Nazmul Huda and Monjurul Ahsan and gave those to Mujibur. He then said he did not have information about them and asked this correspondent to contact Abul Khair Majumder, another superintendent at the same section.
Approached, Khair said the files were in Mujibur's office.
ACC counsel Khurshid said that in May and September this year, two HC benches sought the appeal documents of Maya, Tuku, Nazmul Huda and Monjurul from the HC Criminal Appeal Section. But those were not produced before the benches.
The HC benches -- one comprised of Justice Md Moinul Islam Chowdhury and Justice JBM Hassan and the other of Justice Bhabani Prasad Singha and Justice SM Mozibur Rahman -- later dropped the appeals from their hearing lists, he added.