CHT verdict stayed
Courtesy: New Age, Dhaka, front page, March 4, 2011
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on Thursday granted permission to the government to appeal against the High Court verdict that had declared illegal the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act 1998 and the regional council formed under the act and three hill district council acts in part.
The full court of all the seven Appellate Division judges, headed by the chief justice, ABM Khairul Haque, also ordered continuation of the stay order, granted earlier on the High Court verdict, till the disposal of the appeal.
The court passed the order after hearing a petition filed by the government and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council seeking permission to appeal against the verdict.
Earlier on April 15, 2010, the then chamber judge of the Appellate Division, Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, stayed the verdict and asked the government to file a regular petition seeking permission to appeal against the verdict.
The regional council continued to function obtaining the stay order.
The High Court bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowhury on April 13, 2010 delivered the verdict declaring illegal the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act 1998.
The High Court had also declared illegal Section 4(6), 17, 32(2), and 62(1) of the Rangamati Hill District Council Act 1989, Khagrachari Hill District Council Act 1989 and the Bandarbun Hill District Council Act 1989, as amended in 1998 after the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty signed in 1997, saying that the amended provisions had violated the ‘sanctity of a unitary state.’
Moving the government petition, the attorney general, Mahbubey Alam, argued that the verdict needed further judicial scrutiny by the highest court.
As the issue is related to interpretation of the constitution, the High Court should have stayed the operation of the verdict and issued a certificate allowing the government to directly appeal against the verdict without requiring permission for the appeal, said CHT regional council’s lawyer Kamal Hossain.
The writ petitioners’ counsel Abdur Razzaq argued that the accord had not been declared unconstitutional and only parts of the district council acts were declared illegal.
In the verdict on two writ petitions challenging the CHT treaty signed on December 2, 1997, the High Court, however, did not declare the treaty illegal, saying as the agreement was political in nature, ‘an accord between belligerents,’ it could not be judicially reviewed by the court.
In the verdict, the court had observed that the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act 1998 was illegal as it had violated the ‘sanctity of a unitary state.’
The court came up with the judgement after hearing two writ petitions filed in 2000 by Badiuzzaman, a Bengali settler in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and by Tajul Islam, a pro-Jamaat lawyer, in 2007 challenging the legality of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty.