The Appellate Division in a full verdict released on Tuesday termed illegal and reprehensible the role of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence in ‘extortion’ of Tk 615.55 crore from businesses by army-led taskforces during the 2007-08 military-controlled interim regime.
In the 89-page verdict delivered by a four-judge bench chaired by chief justice SK Sinha, the apex court also criticised the Armed Forces and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence in interfering with the executive powers in different periods.
In the short order pronounced on March 16, the court dismissed Bangladesh Bank’s appeals against High Court verdicts that had directed the central bank to refund the money within 90 days and declared illegal the process of the extraction of the money from the businesses by DGFI.
In the full verdict, the apex court said, ‘Though DGFI denied its role in the extortion of money, the documents filed by the Bangladesh Bank clearly show that the money have been collected by Md Afzal Naser Bhuiyan, Lt Col for DGFI. He sent the money on the letterhead of DGFI to the Bangladesh Bank for taking action by the governor.’
The verdict said that neither the DGFI nor any intelligence agency had any right or authority to recover such money as tax or VAT.
‘Article 83 of the constitution totally prohibits in such process of realising any money otherwise than act of parliament,’ it said.
‘It was not possible to act as such on the part of one officer without knowledge and concurrence of the authority on consideration of the fact that it was not an isolated incident, rather the arrest, detention and torture both physically and mentally were carried out for days together against dignified and resourceful persons,’ said the verdict.
‘It was a concerted effort on the part of this agency is beyond reprehensible. Those actions were taken openly and freely, and the same need not be proved,’ it said.
The verdict said that after the independence of the country, National Security Intelligence was created as the sole intelligence agency. ‘External threat from foreign military left to the creation of Directorate of Forces Intelligence in 1972.’
It said that the role of the DFI was only limited to sharing intelligence with the Armed Forces. ‘Under president Ziaur Rahman’s presidency, on 24 August, 1976, DFI was improved and renamed as Directorate General of Forces Intelligence which led to a massive modification in the organisational structure of the agency and the agency was transformed from or into defensive to an offensive intelligence unit,’ said the verdict.
‘The DGFI’s primary role is to specialise in the collection, analysis and assessment of military intelligence,’ it said.
The High Court rightly held that ‘no situation, be it emergency or otherwise, justifies such action by any Governmental agency to extract money from citizen in the name of taxation without sanction of act of Parliament in excess of constitutional limitations,’ the apex court said.
‘Though all money were extorted by DGFI and deposited with Bangladesh Bank, the latter tried to justify its action which is reprehensible. It is the custodian of the public money – it has nothing to do with any action of the government or its agencies as to whether those actions were justified or unjustified,’ the verdict said.
Terming the defence forces an asset of our country, the verdict said, ‘It can be said in brief that today the obligation of military is beyond their primary role of battling the external enemy as there is perceptible shift towards internal security involving deactivating terrorists, winning the hearts and minds of aggrieved people of the country, riot control, saving lives during natural disasters and military diplomacy.’
Mentioning that there is also a dark side of these forces, it said, ‘Some aberrant officers participated in the killing of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other members of his family, his kiths and kins. They also committed heinous crime like the killing of four national leaders in the Dhaka Central Jail. Some of the aberrated personnel also brutally killed president Ziaur Rahman. Some misguided power monger high ranking officers declared martial laws in 1975 and 1982.’
It however, said, ‘This national forces should not take the responsibility of these deviant officers and jawans.’
Similarly, some of the officers compelled the president to declare emergency in the country on January 11, 2007, said the verdict.
‘It was practically not their sole responsibility because then president Professor Dr Iajuddin Ahmed in violation of the constitutional provisions then prevailing assumed the functions of the chief advisor of the Non-Party Caretaker Government in addition to his own functions under clause (6) of Article 58C of the constitution,’ said the verdict.
‘This illegal assumption of power inflamed the political parties and public in general,’ it said.
‘The regime indiscriminately arrested political personalities and businessmen. The country was about to brink of economic collapse by reason of indiscriminate arrest of politicians and businessmen by some ambitious officers of the Armed Forces,’ said the verdict.
‘Illegal usurpation of executive power and excessive exercise of power by some officers of the Armed Forces without sanction of law has shattered and disparaged the respect of the people towards them,’ it said.
‘According to our constitution, the “Armed Forces” is embedded in the system of the separation of powers. As part of the executive, the armed forces are bound by law and justice, and the protection of the basic human rights,’ the verdict said.
‘Independent courts ensure that the armed forces comply with the law. A basic principle is that the members of the Armed Forces, like all other citizens, are subject to ordinary jurisdiction and also enjoy the guarantee of legal protection and the right to have recourse to the courts. There can be no independent military jurisdiction in the classic sense-i.e. jurisdiction as the product of the command authority of military leaders,’ the verdict said.
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