Tuesday, May 17, 2011 Front Page

Truth Commission illegal
Declares SC; anti-graft body to go after clemency-seekers
Ashutosh Sarkar and Emran Hossain The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the High Court verdict that declared illegal the Truth and Accountability Commission (Tac) the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker government had formed as part of its anti-graft crackdown. A seven-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by outgoing Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque passed the ruling dismissing a leave-to-appeal petition against the HC verdict. The petition was filed by Manzur Ahmed Bhuiyan, an engineer of Roads and Highways Department, and two other civil servants who were pardoned by the now-defunct Truth Commission. The SC ruling means those let off by the commission can now be tried for corruption. “We will initiate legal proceedings against the listed graft suspects as soon as we get the copy of the judgment,” AntiCorruption Commission Chairman Ghulam Rahman said. A total of 452 people sought clemency from the Tac under the voluntary disclosure of information ordinance. Among them were 270 people listed by the ACC as graft suspects. The anti-graft body halted proceedings against them midway as they went to the Tac, disclosing how they amassed wealth beyond their known sources of income. “The proceedings will start from where they stopped,” said the ACC chairman. He said the ACC will initiate proceedings against all those who secured clemency from the Tac only by paying fines. AM Aminuddin, a lawyer for the petitioners, said the ACC can take action against those who went to the Tac and confessed to their illegal income, but fresh investigation will be required. The original HC verdict was delivered on October 13, 2008, in response to a writ petition filed by SC lawyer Adilur Rahman Khan, Ubinig Executive Director Farida Akhter, Awami Women Affairs Secretary (now the foreign minister) Dipu Moni and human rights group Odhikar's Nasiruddin Elan. The public interest litigation was filed on August 25, 2008, challenging the legality of the Tac. The military-backed caretaker administration of Fakhruddin Ahmed said it formed the Truth Commission in 2008 to offer the corrupt officials and businessmen an opportunity to get clemency by admitting their misdeeds and depositing the ill-gotten money to the state coffers. It also said the Tac realised Tk 34 crore in penalties from the corruption suspects. As many as 351 civil servants went to the Tac. There is, however, a debate over whether the government must return the penalty money to the suspects. “As the ordinance that was used to levy the fines stands illegal, the government now has to return the money,” said ACC counsel Khurshid Alam Khan. Law Minister Shafique Ahmed outright rejected the idea. “Admittedly they are guilty of taking bribe or resorting to corruption abusing their power. They have no legal right to demand their money back?” said Shafique.

The confession they made may be used for investigation into their graft. Shafique pledged to take action against those public servants who went to the Tac. Instead. “The verdict was expected. the minister added. as the commission was against the basic principles of law that everyone is equal. said. many of the government officials who confessed to corruption have reportedly been promoted. But nothing has been done so far. their ill-gotten property will be confiscated and they will face action from the ACC as per the antigraft act. a lawyer for the petitioners who challenged the formation of the Tac.Furthermore. executive director of Transparency International. He also said that while taking fresh action against those pardoned by the Tac. “The court [SC] has settled all debates over the issue and now there is no scope for those who went to the Truth Commission to escape prosecution.” said Dr Iftekharuzzaman. who had a role in drafting the voluntary disclosure of information ordinance. the fines they had paid under a legal authority should be taken into consideration. M Asaduzzaman.” Senior ACC counsel Anisul Huq. if any. said he will not comment until he has read the full verdict. . Immediately after taking office in 2009. Bangladesh.

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