Pro-BNP lawyers' chaos forces embarrassed top court justices to leave courtroom
In an unprecedented incident, a six-member Appellate Division bench expressed embarrassment and left the courtroom yesterday, after a three-hour-long chaos caused by pro-BNP lawyers over the rescheduling of bail hearing in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case.
The lawyers became agitated and started protesting in the courtroom after the Supreme Court bench fixed December 12 to hear the petition seeking bail for incarcerated BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
Yesterday's proceedings had started at 9am, and the bench, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, around 10am heard Khaleda’s bail plea.
As Khaleda’s medical report was not submitted before it, the court fixed the new hearing date. But, demanding the date to be preponed, the pro-BNP lawyers, mostly the juniors, started a great hue and cry.
They refused to leave the courtroom from 10am till 1pm — bringing the court proceedings to a grinding halt and not allowing hearings of other cases to take place.
Apart from the chief justice, the other members of the bench were Justice Muhammad Imman Ali, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, Justice Zinat Ara, Justice Abu Bakar Siddiquee, and Justice Md Nuruzzaman.
At the beginning, the justices had immediately tried to calm the situation and continue court proceedings, but to no avail. Then they left the courtroom around 10:15am and went to their chambers.
An hour later, they returned to their seats and tried to resume the court proceedings, but failed again.
Around 12pm, they returned and tried again, but the agitating lawyers did not allow the proceedings to continue.
After trying for an hour to bring order in the courtroom, the justices expressed deep embarrassment over the lawyers’ behaviour and left for the last time around 1:15pm — a rare incident in Bangladesh's judicial history.
Trial proceedings at the apex court generally take place from 9am to 1pm, which include an hour-long break from 11am.
Over the span of three hours yesterday, the junior pro-BNP lawyers not only created much hullaballoo, they also did not let anybody, including the senior defence counsels, enter or leave the courtroom.
Shockingly, the senior lawyers representing Khaleda had also failed to bring the situation under control, as the juniors kept on shouting slogans such as "We want justice," "Bail for Khaleda Zia," etc.
‘Everything has a limit’
Highly irritated by the pro-BNP lawyers’ behaviour, Chief Justice Hossain had expressed his resentment after returning to the courtroom around 11:30am.
"Everything has a limit. The way you are behaving is unprecedented. I've never witnessed such a situation inside a courtroom before," he told the junior lawyers.
“An order has been given. Don’t hamper the court’s atmosphere,” he said.
Immediately afterwards, Khaleda's lawyer Advocate Zainul Abedin approached the bench, but the chief justice stopped him, saying: "Please, take you seat."
Zainul then said that Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina has been making comments on BNP chief Khaleda and the case proceedings.
In response, Chief Justice Hossain said the court passed order on the documents and evidence and it does not care whatever anybody says
Then, Zainul and other senior pro-BNP lawyers AJ Mohammad Ali, Khandaker Mahmud Hossain and Moudud Ahmed, who represented Khaleda during the hearing, tried to calm the agitated lawyers and asked them to leave the premises. But the junior lawyers defied their order too.
Around the same time, pro-BNP lawyer and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) General Secretary Mahbub Uddin Khokon distributed candies among the protesters.
The pro-BNP counsels then locked into altercation with the prosecution team, which included Md Khurshid Alam, who represented the Anti-Corruption Commission, and Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, who represented the state.
The situation heated up more when several pro-Awami League lawyers, the attorney general and other state counsels urged Khaleda’s lawyers to leave the courtroom.
The agitating lawyers left the scene after the judges left adjourning the hearing.
On November 28, the apex court wanted to know about Khaleda Zia’s physical condition from the medical board formed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) to treat her.
On Wednesday, the board filed its report to the BSMMU Hospital authorities, which was supposed to be presented before the Appellate Division bench during yesterday's hearing.
But at the beginning of the hearing, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told the court that Khaleda needed more medical tests, and BSMMU said it will need more time to conduct the tests and submit an updated report.
Following his plea, the court then set December 12 as the next hearing date and asked the state to submit the report by that day, triggering the defence lawyers’ outcry.
Terming the incident “nasty,” the attorney general later told reporters Khaleda’s lawyers were pressuring the court into coming to a decision in their favour regarding her bail.
SCBA President and pro-Awami League lawyer AM Amin Uddin, at a press briefing after the chaos, expressed deep frustration and said BNP had no faith in the judiciary.
Both Mahbubey and Amin demanded that proper actions be taken against the lawyers who created disorder in court.
In another counter press conference held later in the day, SCBA General Secretary Khokon blamed the attorney general for triggering the chaos.
“Mahbybey Alam is responsible for what happened today, because the bail hearing does not need the medical report,” he added.
He said: “Khaleda Zia has been in jail for quite a long time for allegedly abusing power while in power. But hundreds of accused in cases like this one against her are now out on bail.”
The BNP chief has been in prison since February last year, serving a total of 17 years in the Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust corruption cases.
Khaleda, currently being treated at BSMMU Hospital, had moved the apex court on November 14 challenging a High Court order that had turned down her bail petition in the Zia Charitable Trust case.
‘Govt will take action’
Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday afternoon said that the government will take action against those who caused the “unprecedented” chaos in the Supreme Court.
“I want to clearly say that the government will not allow anybody to insult or humiliate any institution of Bangladesh. Legal actions will be taken against whosoever does so,” he told reporters at his Gulshan residence.
He added: “I have seen in the past that BNP lawyers and supporters tried to create disorder centring a court order or verdict, if they do not go in their favour.”