Dhaka, December 08: The Election Commission on Saturday upheld returning officers’ decisions cancelling the candidature of jailed BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia for forthcoming national election.On the basis of majority opinions of the five election commissioners, the Commission pronounced its judgment turning down Khaleda’s petitions filed to get back her candidacy in Feni-1, Bogura-6 and 7 constituencies, UNB reports.
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda and three election commissioners –Rafiqul Islam, Kabita Khanam and Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury — rejected Khaleda’s appeals, while election commissioner MahbubTalukder accepted her candidature.
Later, EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed announced the Commission’s judgment around 5:55pm rejecting the BNP chairperson’s three petitions by 4-1 votes. “The petitions were rejected by 4-1 votes,” he added.
Earlier in the day, the EC, the appellate authority, heard the three petitions for 22 minutes from 12:38pm.
During the hearing, Khaleda’s counsel AJ Mohammad Ali argued that the grounds for cancellation of her nomination papers were not lawful as the article 12 (1) (d) of the Representation of the People Order 1972 (RPO) can be applied only for electoral offences.
Following the argument, the quasi judiciary body, EC, decided to announce its judgment after 5pm.
Before pronouncing the verdict, the court invited petitioner’s lawyers to take part in the hearing again.
AJ Mohammad Ali along with Zaniul Abedin and Mahbub Uddin Khokon started placing their arguments before the Commission.
Awami League Advisory Council member and Supreme Court lawyer Yusuf Hossain Humayun along with his fellow lawyers tried to draw the electoral tribunal’s attention and placed arguments countering Khaleda’s lawyers.
Immediately after the argument, election commissioner Mahbub Talukder said he reviewed legal grounds of Khaleda Zia’s petitions filed against the cancellation of her nomination papers for Feni-1, Bogura-6 and 7 by the returning officers. “I declare my judgment in favour of accepting the petitions of Begum Khaleda Zia considering the legal grounds,” he said.
With the announcement of Mahbub Talukder’s judgment, BNP lawyers were seen cheerful and celebrating their victory in the legal fight, while AL lawyers were showing their anger.
At this stage, the EC Secretary urged all to be calm, saying it was not the complete judgment, rather the opinion of one commissioner only.
Amid the hue and cry, election commissioner Rafiqul Islam started delivering his judgment. In his judgment, he said, “No convicted person can contest the election according to the article 66 of the Constitution. On this ground, the petitions of Khaleda Zia have not been accepted.”
Election commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury also passed the similar judgment.
Supporting Rafiqul Islam and Shahadat Hossain’s judgments, another election commissioner Kabita Khanam said, “Begum Khaleda Zia is in jail being convicted for moral turpitude. Her conviction was not stayed. Her petitions have not been accepted considering the spirit of the returning officers’ decisions that cancelled her nomination papers.”
Finally, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said, “I handed down the judgment supporting three persons — my commissioners Rafiqul Islam, Shahadat Hossain and Kabita Khanam.”
Then the EC Secretary declared the EC’s judgment over the three petitions of Khaleda Zia.
On December 2, returning officers accepted a total of 2,279 nomination papers and rejected 786 others filed to run the general election from the country’s 300 constituencies.
Subsequently, 543 petitions, including three of Khaleda Zia, were filed with the Election Commission seeking that the decisions of returning officers be overturned.
The EC started disposing of the petitions following hearing on Thursday.
Now, the BNP chairperson has the scope to go to the High Court to seek redress against the EC’s judgment.