Removal letter illegal
Counsels for Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus yesterday argued that there is no legal bar for him to continue as the managing director of Grameen Bank since the Bangladesh Bank's directive to remove him was illegal.
The removal of Yunus without any show-cause notice was a violation of law, they told the High Court while placing arguments on a writ petition filed by Yunus, who challenged the legality of the central bank's order.
The HC bench of Justice Momtaz Uddin Ahmed and Justice Gobinda Chandra Tagore adjourned the hearing till 2:00pm today. Prof Yunus was present in the courtroom during the hearing.
Former attorney general Mahmudul Islam and Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud appeared for Yunus and said their client was appointed as the managing director with approval of the central bank as per the provisions of the Grameen Bank Ordinance, 1983.
Bangladesh Bank has no authority to remove anyone from Grameen Bank. The central bank is empowered to approve appointments as per the provisions of the ordinance, they argued.
The Nobel laureate yesterday submitted to the HC some relevant papers including the copy of his letter to Finance Minister AMA Muhith. The hearing was held to supplement his writ petition and submissions.
Yunus sent the handwritten letter to the finance minister on March 15, 2010 saying he had long been looking for a respectable way to quit his post and ensure sustainability of the organisation.
The submissions were made to remove the legal confusion about his holding the office at Grameen Bank, his lawyers said.
On March 3, the HC bench fixed March 6 for passing an order on the writ.
Mahmudul Islam told the court that Bangladesh Bank has exempted Yunus from office without serving him any show-cause notice, which is illegal, malafide and arbitrary.
It is not correct that there was no necessity of issuing a show-cause notice, since he continued in the office in line with the relevant laws, he said citing some reference laws. The lawyer made the submission in reply to an argument placed by Attorney General Mahbubey Alam on March 3.
The attorney general told the HC bench that Yunus is now around 70, and according to the Section 36 of the Grameen Bank Ordinance, 1983, he cannot hold the office of the managing director.
The bank was established as per the ordinance, and according to section 36, the retirement age of its officials is 60. This provision is applicable to Yunus as well, Mahbubey Alam said.
Rokanuddin Mahmud said Bangladesh Bank has no right to appoint or relieve or remove anyone from Grameen Bank as per the Service Rules.
Only the Board of Directors of Grameen Bank can do so as per the provisions of the Ordinance under which the bank was established, he said.
The Board of Directors of Grameen decided in 1999 and again in 2009 that Yunus, founder of the institution, may hold the office of managing director as long as he wishes, the lawyer pointed out.
Rokanuddin said to exercise its power to give directives, Bangladesh Bank has to be satisfied with some issues in respect of exercising Section 45 of the Bank Companies Act, 1991.
The central bank has to be satisfied whether this section is used for the sake of public interest or monetary and banking policies, he argued.
The lawyer said it was not mentioned in the letter whether Bangladesh Bank exercised its power under the section.
He made this argument in reply to a point of Mahbubey Alam, who said on March 3 that as per Section 45 of the Bank Companies Act, 1991, Bangladesh Bank has the authority to remove any person from Grameen Bank.
The HC bench heard submissions from Yunus' counsels for two hours and then adjourned the hearing.
The central bank on March 2 sent a letter to Grameen Bank Chairman Khondoker Muzammel Huq relieving Yunus of his duties.
On March 3, eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain appeared for Yunus and placed a long argument before the HC bench for an order asking the government to explain why the Bangladesh Bank's "letter of removal" should not be declared illegal.
Dr Kamal told the court that the central bank annually and regularly approved Grameen's activities and operations and other orders for over 11 years. No question was raised about the issue during the period.
The HC bench may hold hearing today on the writ filed by nine members of the board of directors of Grameen Bank, who challenged the legality of the Bangladesh Bank's letter.
YUNUS CANCELS US VISIT
Muhammad Yunus, who was to visit the US to meet Hillary Clinton and address a microcredit summit, has cancelled the tour due to preoccupation at home, said a Grameen Bank official.
US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer and Yunus were scheduled to speak at the launch of the State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign today in Washington, DC.
Prof Yunus was also expected to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on March 8. The meeting will be held later, said a source.