Election Commission on Saturday upheld returning officers’ decision cancelling candidature of jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia for December 30 general election.
Amid opposition from election commissioner Mahabub Talukder, the chief election commissioner-headed electoral tribunal turned down all the three appeals of the former prime minister against cancellation of her candidacy for Feni 1, Bogura 6 and 7 constituencies.
CEC KM Nurul Huda and three other election commissioners — Rafiqul Islam, Kabita Khanam and Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury — gave their judgments against Khaleda’s appeals, while election commissioner Mahbub Talukder gave his judgment in favour of them.
EC secretary Helaluddin Ahmed announced the commission’s judgment around 5:55pm rejecting Khaleda’s three petitions by 4-1 votes.
Earlier on the day, the appellate authorities heard the three petitions for about half an hour beginning at 12:38pm.
During the hearing, Khaleda’s counsel AJ Mohammad Ali, also former attorney general, argued that the grounds for cancellation of her nomination papers were not lawful as the article 12 (1) (d) of the Representation of the People Order 1972 were applicable only for electoral offenses.
Following the argument, the quasi judiciary body, EC, decided to announce its judgment after 5:00pm.
Before pronouncement of the commission’s verdict, the court invited petitioner’s lawyers to take part in hearing again.
Khaleda’s lawyer Mohammad Ali along with Zaniul Abedin and Mahbub Uddin Khokan started submitting their arguments before the commission.
Awami League advisory council member and Supreme Court lawyer Yusuf Hossain Humayun along with his fellow lawyers tried to draw the electoral tribunal’s attention and put forth his arguments countering Khaleda’s lawyers.
Mohammad Ali asked Humayun, ‘Who are you?’
Immediate after the argument, Mahbub Talukder said he reviewed legal grounds of Khaleda’s petitions and gave his judgment in favour of accepting the petitions.
With his announcement, the BNP lawyers started cheering celebrating their victory, while AL lawyers were showing their anger.
At this stage, the EC secretary asked all to be quiet saying that it was not a complete judgment. It was judgment of only one commissioner, he added.
Amid hue and cry, election commissioner Rafiqul Islam started delivering his judgment saying that no convict could contest the elections according to the article 66 of the constitution.
‘On this ground, the petitions of Khaleda Zia cannot be accepted,’ he argued.
Election commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury also passed the same judgment while Kabita Khanam said that Khaleda Zia was in jail being convicted for moral turpitude.
She said Khaleda’s conviction was not stayed, so her petitions would not be accepted.
Following judgments of the four commissioners, the CEC said that he handed down the judgment supporting three persons —commissioners Rafiqul Islam, Shahadat Hossain and Kabita Khanam.
The EC secretary declared the judgment over.
In another development on the day, Awami League joint general secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak met EC secretary Helaluddin about 2:30pm, when the tribunal went for launch break.
Emerging out of the EC secretary’s room, Nanak told reporters that he urged the commission to carry out its activities according to the RPO and constitution and not be influenced by BNP and Jatiya Oikya Front people.
In the afternoon, EC tightened security at Nirbachon Bhaban and did not allow any unauthorised people in the tribunal area on the 11th floor of the EC building.
An additional number of law enforcers were deployed on the EC premises.
On December 2, returning officers accepted a total 2,279 nomination papers and rejected 786 others.
Subsequently 543 petitions, including the three of Khaleda, were filed with the commission seeking review of the returning officers’ decision.
In instant reaction, Khaleda’s lawyer Mahbub Uddin Khokon said that they accepted Mahabub Talukder’s judgment only as there was no instance of delivering split judgments in the electoral tribunal.
He said that they would take further decision after getting the certified copies of the verdicts.
EC started disposing the petitions following hearing on Thursday.
According to the electoral law, now the BNP chairperson can move High Court for seeking redress against the EC’s judgment.
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