The High Court is yet to start the hearing on the death references and appeals against the verdict of the sensational August 21, 2004, grenade attack case, although it accepted the appeals of the convicts more than a year and a half ago.
The pandemic caused an unusual delay for the offices concerned of the High Court and Bangladesh Government Press in preparing the paper books of the cases.
However, the authorities concerned were able to prepare the paper books and these finally reached the HC on Sunday [August 16], clearing the way for the court to start a hearing on the death references and appeals of the cases.
A paper book - which contains all the details of a case, trial proceedings, statements, evidence, orders, verdict and other relevant documents -- is necessary for the HC to hear and dispose of a death reference or an appeal.
If a lower court sentences a person to death in a case, its judgment is examined by the HC through hearing arguments for confirmation of the death sentence.
The case documents and judgment reach as death references to the HC from the lower court within seven days of the latter delivering the verdict.
Supreme Court sources said the murder case filed in connection with the August 21 grenade attack in 2004, has 585 paper books containing around 10,500 pages in 13 volumes.
A total of 22 appeals have been filed by the convicts independently thorough lawyers while 12 jail appeals have been filed by convicts through jail authorities, in connection with the murder case.
Meanwhile, the case filed separately under the Explosives Substances Act, has 495 paper books containing around 10,000 pages in 11 volumes.
A total of 17 appeals have been filed by the convicts independently thorough lawyers while 12 jail appeals have been filed by convicts through jail authorities, in connection with the explosives-related case.
The concerned HC officials are currently scrutinising the paper books and after this process is completed, the issue will be placed before the chief justice for a decision.
Then the chief justice may assign a High Court bench for starting hearing on the death references and appeals for their disposal. State defence lawyers will be engaged for the fugitive accused of the cases, according to sources.
Contacted, Law Minister Anisul Huq told The Daily Star yesterday that the government has taken necessary steps for quickly preparing the paper books of the August 21 grenade attack cases.
"I have already talked to the attorney general and requested him to move an application as soon as possible before the High Court to fix a date for starting the hearing and disposing of the death references and appeals."
The law minister also said, "Killer Ziaur Rahman's son [Tarique Rahman] and wife [Khaleda Zia] had instigated the most heinous grenade attack on August 21 in 2004 in order to kill the daughter of Bangabandhu [Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina]. Almighty Allah saved her."
"The trial court has ensured justice in this case. I am hopeful that justice will be ensured in the High Court in this case," he added.
Contacted, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told this correspondent that his office will soon move an application before the HC for holding a hearing on the appeals and death references of the grenade attack cases.
Replying to a question, he added it cannot be said at the moment how much time will be needed for final disposal of the cases at the HC.
The death references on the August 21 grenade attack cases reached the HC on November 27, 2018 for examination of the trial court's verdict.
On January 13 last year, the HC accepted the appeals filed by the convicts.
The same day, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman also stayed the part of the trial court verdict that fined the convicts.
The bench passed the order as the appeals filed by the convicts, who are now in jail, were included in its cause list on that day.
A Dhaka court, on October 10, 2018, sentenced 19 people -- including former state minister for home affairs and BNP leader Lutfozzaman Babar -- to death, and 19 others -- including BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman -- to life imprisonment in the two cases filed in relation to the August 21 grenade attack.
At least 24 people were killed and around 300 injured in the grisly attack on an Awami League rally at the capital's Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004.
Sheikh Hasina, now Prime Minister and then the opposition leader in parliament, narrowly escaped the grisly attack with an ear injury.