The charges in two graft cases against former state minister for housing and public works Abdul Mannan Khan and his wife Syeda Hasina Sultana could not be framed even in four years because of repeated time petitions.
Case records show 28 hearings were held for charge framing against Mannan and 33 hearings for Sultana till April 2.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the cases against the couple in 2014 following a seven-month investigation.
According to the charge sheet, submitted in May 2015, Mannan illegally amassed Tk 74.94 lakh and concealed information about property worth Tk 4.59 lakh. His wife illegally amassed Tk 3.45 crore and concealed information about property worth Tk 1.86 crore.
A Dhaka court granted Mannan bail on August 24, 2014, considering his illness and status as a former state minister in the Awami League government. His bail was later extended in November 2015 after the case was transferred to the Special Judge Court-3 for trial.
Hasina got bail in October 2014, which was later extended in July 2015.
The next hearing of the cases is due tomorrow.
43 TIME PETITIONS
Since August 2015, the couple’s lawyers filed at least 40 time petitions, mostly on grounds of sickness, but also for their unavailability because of emergency personal and family affairs. Three petitions were filed by Public Prosecutor Mir Ahmed Ali Salam.
In Mannan’s case, 13 petitions were filed because of his “sickness” and his engagements in family matters. His lawyer, Syed Rezaur, filed five petitions seeking time because he was busy with his own personal matters. One petition was filed by Ali Salam, according to the court records.
In his wife’s case, eight petitions were filed due to “professional reasons” of Syed Rezaur while two petitions for the lawyer’s “sickness”.
Another eight petitions were filed due to “sickness” and family affairs of Hasina and her husband, while four more on various other grounds. Two more petitions were filed by ACC lawyer Ali Salam.
‘NOTHING TO DO’
The Daily Star found a similar graft case filed by the ACC where the court framed charges after five hearings.
The then ACC assistant director Mashiur Rahman filed that case in January 2013 against Paragon Knit Composite Ltd, a sister concern of Hall-Mark Group, bringing allegations of amassing Tk 1.31 crore.
While delivering a verdict on a writ petition filed in 2016 challenging legality of earth-filling, encroachment and construction of structures along the Turag banks, Justice Md Ashraful Kamal of the High Court told the lawyers, “Five lakh cases are still pending. If each judge works day and night or no new case is taken, it will take 30 years to finish the existing cases.”
Asked about repeated petitions in the cases against Mannan and his wife, defence lawyer Syed Rezaur Rahman said, “I cannot say anything without seeing the records.”
Contacted, Public Prosecutor Ali Salam said, “I have always opposed the defence’s repeated time petitions seeking adjournment of the charge hearings, but the court granted the petitions. I have nothing to do if the court allows time.”