Law Minister says Section 401 of the CrPC can be reconsidered if she submits a mercy plea to the prime minister
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia now just has one way to get permission to go abroad for her treatment, according to the law minister.
If she makes a mercy plea to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, there is an opportunity to consider it under Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). But in that case, she has to admit guilt and then apologize, Anisul Huq said this on a talk show at a private TV channel on Monday, reports Bangla Tribune.
Explaining why it was not possible to respond to Khaleda’s request for permission to go abroad, he said a convicted accused can apply for release citing his or her physical condition.
Section 401 gives the government the power to take action against convicted criminals. Whatever the government has to do, it has to be done in line with the law, Anisul said.
Recalling Khaleda’s conditional release under Section 401, the minister said, following her release, the application was disposed of. After that, Section 401 has no power to reconsider a settled application.
Replying to a question on whether the premier can clear the BNP chief’s travel abroad, he said: “If the prime minister has to allow someone to go abroad, it must be done through the law. Now I don't have a law that says she should be allowed to go abroad.
“But now if Khaleda Zia apologizes to the prime minister, then there is an opportunity to consider that appeal under Section 401. If she submits the mercy plea to the president, action can be taken under Section 402 (2). Article 49 of the constitution makes it clear that the president can pardon her. Still, there is the question of her apologizing.”
The law minister, however, is not sure whether Khaleda would be forgiven even if she apologises.
“The law suggests a way: seeking an apology. If pardoned, a convict can do whatever he or she wants,” he said.
“It is said that ASM Abdur Rab was given the opportunity to go abroad in 1977 even after being convicted. As there was a military rule in place then, the president had full control over the law and by using it, ASM Abdur Rab was allowed to go abroad,” Anisul added.
The law minister also said that there are examples of the Appellate Division granting bail and allowing an accused to go abroad for treatment.
“That can be given by the court if it grants bail. But in this case, when Section 401 is applied, there is nothing more to do,” he observed.
Claiming that he is not against Khaleda’s travel abroad, he said Section 401 was applied to release her conditionally.
“This application has been disposed of. There is no scope in the law for reconsideration of this application. They can just apologize as mentioned in the law. This is also applicable if the convict writes to the president and the prime minister by confessing to the crime she committed,” he concluded.
On Sunday, the Law Ministry rejected the plea seeking the government’s permission to take Khaleda Zia abroad for receiving advanced treatment.
On March 25 last year, the former prime minister was released after the government suspended her sentences and verdict for six months in a corruption case through an executive order under two conditions – she would have to take treatment at her Gulshan residence and that she cannot travel abroad.
On August 27 last year, the government extended her release for six more months. It was extended again for another six months on March 15 this year.
Khaleda, 76, tested positive for Covid-19 twice in a month – on April 10 and April 24. Her blood report and CT scan results were normal.
She was moved to the Coronary Care Unit at Evercare Hospital on April 28 after complaining of breathing issues. Her shortness of breath was caused by excess fluid accumulating in her lungs, according to her personal doctors.
She, however, tested negative for Covid-19 on Saturday, but she is yet to be free of health risks, according to her doctors.
On May 5, Khaleda’s younger brother Shamim Iskander met the home minister at his Dhanmondi residence and submitted the application. The home minister then sent the application to the Law Ministry for consideration.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir had also met the home minister, on May 3, and discussed the matter.
It may be recalled that on February 8, 2018, the former prime minister was lodged in the old Dhaka Central Jail after a lower court jailed her for five years in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case. The High Court later doubled her jail term.
She was also found guilty in another corruption case the same year.