B'desh SC adjourns hearing on Yunus plea

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Dhaka, Mar 15: Bangladesh Supreme court today (Mar 15) adjourned for two weeks the hearing on Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus's appeal petition against his removal from the Grameen Bank as 26 US Congressmen asked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to amicably settle the issue.

The appellate division of the Supreme Court adjourned for two weeks the hearing on two appeals filed against a High Court judgement that upheld a Bangladesh Bank order removing Yunus from the office of managing director of Grameen Bank.

70-year-old Yunus's chief counsel Kamal Hossain told the court that Yunus was appointed as Grameen Bank MD with the approval of Bangladesh Bank in 1990 while the central bank carried out an audit into the lending agency in 1998 but it did not raise any question about his appointment.

"(So) there was no need for further approval from Bangladesh Bank... If the government felt that it was not right for Yunus to hold the office, it could have issued a proper notice to him," he said.

Yunus filed the appeal petition as the High Court last week upheld a Bangladesh Bank order removing Yunus from the pioneering micro-lending agency he had founded three decades ago allegedly for holding the position of its managing director without the central bank's approval.

Nine directors of the Grameen Bank also filed an identical provisional leave-to-appeal petition seeking stay on the High Court decision.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Hasina on March 11, which was made available to the media yesterday, the US Congressmen said, "we are troubled by the removal of Dr Muhammad Yunus from his position at Grameen Bank."

The group led by Joseph Crowley and Gary Ackerman said Bangladesh made important strides in economic growth and by taking steps to address corruption, seeking greater cooperation with its neighbours, fighting poverty and improving the rule of law.

"Unfortunately, the situation with Yunus is beginning to overshadow these concrete gains and introduce uncertainty regarding one of Bangladesh's most visible and beloved institutions," the letter said.

The Daily Star and several other mass circulation newspapers published the letter as Yunus visibly rallied huge supports of international community and civil society groups in the country behind him.

"Many of us have personally seen the effectiveness of Grameen programmes, and believe they and Yunus have done a great deal to improve lives by providing access to credit for those without collateral," read the Congressmen's letter.

The Congressmen said they earlier raised these concerns directly with Bangladesh government over the past few months, "but the situation has not changed" as they urged Hasina to resolve the matter through a "mutual compromise" to ensure independence of the microfinance institution.

PTI

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