BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia cannot walk out of prison right now even after winning a hard-fought legal battle for bail at the Supreme Court yesterday, as she didn't get bail in seven other cases in which she was shown arrested.
Two weeks after landing in jail upon being sentenced to five years' imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage graft case, Khaleda filed a bail petition with the High Court. Her petition was strongly opposed by the government. The HC bench on March 12 granted her bail for four months.
The government and the Anti-Corruption Commission then moved to the apex court to block her bail. A week later, the SC stayed the HC bail order in response to their two leave-to-appeal petitions.
Finally, good news came for the BNP chief yesterday as a four-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain dismissed the appeals filed against her bail granted by the HC two months ago.
The grounds on which the apex court upheld the HC order could not be known immediately as the full text of the SC verdict was not released yesterday.
Immediately after the apex court's order, her lawyers said she cannot get released from jail now as she was shown arrested in several other cases.
In fact, the situation got complicated for Khaleda during her legal battle in the graft case as she was shown arrested in seven other cases. Those include three cases over arson attacks in Comilla during the nationwide blockade enforced by her party in 2015.
Her bail petitions were rejected by a Comilla court.
A Narail court also turned down her bail prayer in a defamation case filed for undermining the martyrs of the 1971 Liberation War.
She was also shown arrested in another case over an arson attack in Khulna during the countrywide blockade. She, however, did not pray for bail in the case.
Two Dhaka courts are scheduled to hear today her bail prayers in two cases over her “fake” birthday celebration and undermining the sanctity of the national flag.
Khaleda was shown arrested in the seven cases after she had landed in jail.
The lawsuits now appear to be obstacles to her release from prison. The BNP chief, who is facing a total of 34 cases, may have to wait more behind the bars.
"Khaleda Zia will get released from prison after she secures bail in these cases," Khandker Mahbub Hossain, BNP leader and senior counsel for Khaleda, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“We will have to wait until the party chief gets bail in these cases,” Moudud Ahmed told reporters at the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) building, alleging that the government is resorting to various tactics to delay Khaleda's release.
Khaleda's lawyers seemed confused about the number of cases in which she was shown arrested. According to Mahbub, the number is two to three, while Moudud put it at six.
Asked, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, said, “The home ministry knows very well whether Khaleda Zia is shown arrested in any other cases or not.”
Talking to this correspondent, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said the four-month period for Khaleda's bail will be counted from March 12 when the HC granted her bail.
Contacted, Khaleda's lawyer Mahbub Uddin Khokon said she will move a petition before the SC for extending the bail period as two months of the four-month bail have already elapsed.
DISPOSE APPEAL BY JULY
Yesterday, the SC directed the HC bench headed by Justice M Enayetur Rahim to hear and dispose by July Khaleda's appeal challenging the trial court verdict that sentenced her to five years' imprisonment.
While giving the order, the chief justice mentioned that the paper book of the case was ready.
A paper book contains all the details of a case, trial proceedings, statements, evidence, verdicts and other related documents. This book is necessary for the HC to hear and dispose of an appeal.
Talking to reporters at his office, the attorney general said quick steps will be taken for hearing Khaleda's appeal.
BNP chief's lawyer Zainul Abedin, also president of the SCBA, hoped that Khaleda will be acquitted by the HC.
ARGUMENTS OVER SHORT ORDER
The SC yesterday rejected a prayer from Khaleda's lawyer AJ Mohammad Ali for issuing in advance a short order on its verdict upholding the HC order on Khaleda's bail, as there were no rules for giving such order in advance.
About two hours after the SC order, Ali appeared before the SC bench around 11:30am and requested the court to issue a short order.
In defence of his prayer, Ali said it was needed for furnishing bail bond for Khaleda before the lower court and for her immediate release.
Ali argued that if Khaleda cannot get out of jail for not having a copy of the SC order, it would be an illegal detention.
In response, the chief justice said there was no rule for the SC to issue in advance any short order on its judgment.
He said the full judgment will be released soon.
Ali then said that according to the HC rules, a short order can be issued.
Justice Muhammad Imman Ali, a senior judge of the SC bench, asked Ali whether the SC is bound to abide by the HC Rules.
Ali then said he did not mean so, adding that the apex court could issue a short order if it wanted.
The attorney general opposed Ali's request.
At one stage, Ali told the SC that he came to the court alone, not with any group of lawyers.
In response, the chief justice said, “We don't pass any order taking into consideration any groups.”
Justice Mirza Hussain Haider, another member of the bench, said Ali's observation was seriously objectionable.
“As an officer of the court, you cannot force us to react,” said the judge.
Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, another judge of the bench, asked Ali why he was arguing when the CJ had already refused to release any short order.
Ali then said his observation was not right and left the courtroom.