Govt asked to return Tk 297cr to 2 firms

HC declares realisation of the money during caretaker govt rule illegal, unconstitutional

The High Court (HC) yesterday directed the government to return in three months around Tk 297 crore, which was realised during emergency rule, to two private companies.
The money was collected during the immediate past military-backed caretaker regime from Catheli Dated Tea and Land Bangladesh Ltd and S Alam Steels Ltd.
The HC division bench also declared illegal and unconstitutional realisation of the amount from the two companies.
Over Tk 1,200 crore was realised from different business companies and individuals and was deposited to the national exchequer following anti-corruption drives during the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker government.
The companies and individuals repeatedly requested Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Finance Minister AMA Muhith to take steps to refund their money. But the finance minister told them the government would not refund it.
The HC bench of Justice Mamnoon Rahman and Justice Syeda Afsar Jahan delivered the verdict after hearing two writ petitions filed in April this year by the companies challenging legality of realising the money from them.
The Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) collected Tk 237 crore from Catheli Dated Tea and Land Bangladesh Limited and Tk 60 crore from S Alam Steels by detaining and threatening their officials, petitioners' lawyer advocate Abdul Baset Majumdar told reporters.
Baset added his clients deposited the money through at least 54 payment orders to the Bangladesh Bank on different days in 2007 and 2008.
The money is now deposited in the suspense account of the central bank and the government authorities will return it to his clients within three months, he said.
The DGFI has submitted a statement to the HC saying they had no power to realise money and only discharged their prescribed duties, Baset continued.
In the verdict, the two-justice panel observed that the government cannot realise money without any legal authority and thus collected the amount beyond its constitutional and legal jurisdiction.
The court also said the caretaker government was empowered to discharge only the routine functions as per the article 58 of the Constitution and cannot realise money in such ways.
The HC on April 13 issued separate rules upon the government to explain as to why it should not be directed to return the money to the petitioners.
The secretaries to the ministries of finance, defence, home affairs and law, director general of DGFI and governor of Bangladesh Bank have been made respondents to the verdict.
Assistant Attorney General Rashed S Jahangir represented the government.


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