B'desh SC says no to vacating stay on graft cases against Hasina

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Dhaka, Jul 10 (UNI) Bangladesh Supreme Court today rejected the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) plea for vacating the stay on proceedings of the Niko and the Barge-mounted power plant scam cases against former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, thereby putting the corruption trials on the backburner.

Passing the orders, a four-judge Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice M M Ruhul Amin asked the Attorney General (AG) to file a regular appeal against the High Court (HC) orders of stay.

Earlier, the apex court heard arguments by both sides over the two of the plethora of high-profile cases instituted under the current purge being conducted by the interim regime.

On July 7, a HC division bench of Justices Khademul Islam Chowdhury and Mashuque Hosain Ahmed, upon separate petitions, stayed for two months the proceedings of the Niko and the Barge-mounted power plant graft cases against Ms Hasina, who is now abroad for treatment following temporary release from prison. She went to the US on June 12 for treatment of her ears and eyes.

The HC division bench had also issued separate rules asking the ACC to explain why the two cases ''should not be quashed''. The HC had also called for the trial-court records for its scrutiny as to whether the cases had been filed by the ACC following due process of law.

Following the HC orders, the proceedings of the cases was stalled.

The cases are now lying with the special courts set up at the Parliament building complex that deals with high-profile corruption cases following the 1/11 change of guards in state power.

The Niko scam case was in a pre-charge-hearing phase while the Barge-mounted power plant case was at a much advanced stage of cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses by the defence counsel.

The HC orders came following separate quashing petitions filed by Ms Hasina last month.

Reacting to the Supreme Court edicts, Barrister Shafique Ahmed, the counsel for the former Prime Minister, expressed his satisfaction. He said that in the recent past, the apex court had developed a practice of staying over the HC interim stay orders, which tarnished the image of the highest judiciary.

''But, from now on, it appears to me that a wind of change is blowing in the judicial arena,'' he observed.

Barrister Shafique, who is also the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), said the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court was trying to restore its past tradition in not interfering with or staying the interim orders passed by the HC.

On September 2 last year, the ACC filed the Barge-mounted power plant case against Ms Hasina and several others, amid a crackdown on former ruling politicians in the interim period. It complained that she and other accused, through mutual understanding and use of influence, had helped a foreign company and its local partners win a deal for setting up a barge-mounted 100 MW power plant in Khulna, depriving the lowest bidder.

On December 9 last year, the ACC filed the Niko scam case.

According to the chargesheet, the accused in collusion with one another, awarded gas-extraction work in Chhatak, Kamta and Feni gasfields to Niko Resources Ltd, a Canadian company, ''to gain personal financial benefit that caused a loss of 13,630.50 crore takkas to the state exchequer.'' UNI XC SKB HT1728

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