The High Court on Sunday struck down fixing freedom fighters’ minimum age by the government as ‘unconstitutional’.
The court also struck down the stipulation of the Bangladesh (Freedom Fighters) Welfare Trust Order 1972, amended on October 8, 2018, that ‘only those who fulfil the age criterion set by the government’ would be considered valiant freedom fighters.
The court also struck down as unconstitutional a circular and two notifications issued by liberation war ministry in 2015, 2016 and 2018 fixing the minimum age to be treated as freedom fighters.
On January 31, 2018, the liberation war ministry in a notification said that those who had the minimum age of 12 years and six months on March November 30, 1971 or before was qualified to be enrolled as freedom fighters.
In another notification issued on November 10, 2016 the government had said anyone who reached the minimum age of 13 years on March 3, 1971 or before was qualified to be enrolled as freedom fighter.
A bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil gave the landmark verdict after holding analogous hearing of 15 writ petitions filed by 15 aggrieved freedom fighters.
The bench also directed the government and liberation war ministry to provide within 60 days the honourariums and other benefits to the petitioners that they are entitled to get as freedom fighters.
The verdict stipulates that people irrespective of their age, caste and religion participated in the War of Liberation at the call Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave in his historic speech on March 7, 1971.
The verdict says that since Bangabandhu’s historic speech is now an integral part of the Constitution, therefore, setting freedom fighters’ age by the government by amending the law or issuing circulars would be violations of the Constitution.
The verdict stipulates that fixing the minimum age for getting enrolled as freedom fighters now would contravene the spirit of the proclamation of independence made by the Mujibnagar government on April 10, 1971.
Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif was seen wiping tears with paper napkin as he read out select parts of Sheikh Mujib’s historic speech.
The verdict raised the pertinent question was not Shahidul Islam Lalu a freedom fighter under the government new definition though he became a freedom fighter at the age of 10 and his photograph was published by Dainik Ittefaq on December 10, 1974 , showing him on Sheikh Mujib’s lap.
Shahidul Islam Lalu was the youngest person to be decorated with Bir Pratik for his valour by Bangabandhu himself, recalled the verdict.
The writ petitioners included SM Sajjad Hossain, Abul Hasnath Beg, Md Ahmed Ali, Md Rowshan Ali, Abdul Mannan, Neamat Ali Sheikh, Md Rais Ul Mufassor, Anamul Huq, Humayun Kabir, Jatindra Nath Sen, Md.
Abul Kalam, Md Siddiqur Rahman, Saizuddin, BM Ahmad Hossain and Mahmud Hasan.
Petitioner SM Sajjad Hossain told reporters that he felt aggrieved as he was denied honorariums since 2016 when the minimum age of freedom fighter was fixed at 13.
He said that he retired as Lieutenant Colonel.
Lawyers Omar Sadat, ABM Altaf Hossain and Abir Abbas Chowdhury appeared for the petitioners and deputy attorney general Mokleshur Rahman for the government.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country