The Financial Express

Lawyer challenges Bangladesh lockdown in court, judges fine him for wasting time

| Updated: May 05, 2021 20:42:21

Lawyer challenges Bangladesh lockdown in court, judges fine him for wasting time

The High Court has turned down a lawyer’s petition that challenged the legality of the government’s coronavirus ‘lockdown’ restrictions

Supreme Court Advocate Yunus Ali Akhand has been fined by two judges for wasting their precious time, reports bdnews24.com.

The High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Sardar Md Rashed Jahangir struck down the lawyer’s petition and imposed a fine of Tk 10,000 on him on Wednesday.

In his petition filed on Apr 25, Akhand argued that the government should not have imposed the lockdown without declaring a state of emergency and called for a stay on the restrictions and an order to prevent further lockdowns in future.

The petition named the cabinet secretary and the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 as defendants.

It stated that the government should not restrict the right of the people to move freely without a state of emergency and the government’s action was unconstitutional.

The lockdown without a state of emergency violated Articles 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 35 and 36 of the constitution, the lawyer claimed.

The petition was put on the cause list on Apr 27. The court called Akhand on Sunday as well, but he was not present. The court then set a new date for Tuesday, but Akhand missed that hearing as well. The petition was then put on the cause list on Wednesday and called the petitioner several times, but there was no response.

The court then asked the opinion of Deputy Attorney General Mustafizur Rahman Khan whether a petitioning attorney could be fined in addition to the dismissal of the petition if they failed to appear before the court.

In response, Khan and Deputy Attorney General Bipul Bagmar said that in situations such as this, where petitions were filed in the public interest, fines could be issued.

The court then decided to impose the fine on Akhand, an absentee.

In October 2020, Akhand was suspended from the Supreme Court for three months after posting “disparaging remarks” about the judiciary on social media.

“I did not get the link on Zoom,” Akhand told bdnews24.com when asked about the matter.

“Now I hear from the media that I have been fined Tk 10,000. My motion challenged the first and second lockdowns. But, by the time it was heard, the lockdown was extended twice more. I did not challenge them. As such, the petition is rendered ineffectual by default. But there is no provision for imposing the cost on me.” 

He said he would petition for the decision to be recalled according to the rules of the High Court.

“The High Court asked whether costs could be imposed in a case made in the public interest and I said that it can,” Khan told bdnews24.com.

The lawyer also noted the impact of the pandemic on legal proceedings.

“The court is operating on a limited scale during the lockdown and only essential cases are being heard. All of us are having to wait for hours. There is no need to take legal action in the name of the public interest and then waste the court’s time.”

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