[ Main News ] 2012-05-23
HC orders probe into allotment of plots to Shafiq Rehman, others
The High Court on Tuesday asked the cabinet secretary to form a three-member committee, headed by the LGRD secretary, to investigate whether there were any irregularities in the allotment of plots in Tejgaon industrial zone in the capital.
The bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Jahangir Hossain also asked the secretaries to the housing and public works ministry to submit to it by July 15 the details of persons who had got allotment of the plots in the industrial zone.
The environment secretary was asked to explain whether the ecology of the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project
was threatened by the construction of plots in the industrial zone.
The court also asked the committee to examine whether any land inside or in the vicinity of the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project at Tejgaon had been allotted to journalist Shafiq Rehman, BNP state ministers Quamrul Islam and Ziaul Haque or any others.
The committee, which also includes the law secretary and the home ministry joint secretary (politics), will also have to examine whether due process was followed in the allotments and what procedures were followed.
It will also have to examine whether the prices of the plots were unreasonably lower, whether the leases of the plots were legal, whether there were any irregularities and whether the construction in the industrial zone threatened the ecology of the Hatirjeel-Begunbari project.
The court also directed the Anti-Corruption Commission to launch an investigation into whether there was corruption in the process of the allotments.
The committee and the commission were directed to submit reports to the court on July 15.
The court also asked Shafiq, Quamrul and Ziaul to submit to it on July 15 their wealth statements and that of their families.
The court also directed the Bangladesh high commissioner in London to report the progress of investigation, undertaken by Scotland Yard, the London police, into the allegation that Shafiq Rehman had collected money in London in the name of flood victims in Bangladesh, which had not been distributed among them.
The court passed the order after deputy attorney general ABM Altaf Hossain informed it about the allegation against Shafiq.
Altaf made the allegation when Shafiq appeared in the court as per its earlier order to explain his position on the allegation that he had illegally got allotment of a plot where he had founded the daily JaiJaidin.
The court, however, did not want to know about the allegation of misappropriation from Shafiq or his lawyer Asaduzzaman.
On May 9, the same bench issued a rule suo moto after assistant attorney general Yadiya Zaman produced a report titled ‘Road becomes plot’ published in the daily Kaler Kantha on February 27, 2010, another published in the daily Samakal on March 27 the same year titled ‘Road project becomes industrial plot overnight’ and an essay published in the daily Samakal by Abu Sayeed Khan.
The court had also stayed any construction work on the plot, which has never been in the plan of the Hateerjhil-Begunbari project.
The court summoned Quamrul and Ziaul Haque and their family members who were named in the reports.
Later in the hearing on May 16, Rajuk lawyer KM Saifuddin said many people, including Shafiq Rehman, were allotted the plots.
The court then had summoned Shafiq to appear on May 22.
Shafiq was kept standing during the proceedings which lasted more than two hours on Tuesday.
As Asaduzzaman stood for Shafiq at about 11:25am, Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury told him, ‘Where is your client. Asked him to appear and stand in the dock.’
Shafiq, who was sitting in the seat meant for litigants, stood near the dock.
Senior lawyer TH Khan, who appeared for Quamrul, told the court, ‘They [Quamrul and Shafiq] are not accused and you are committing a crime by keeping them standing. They are here in response to your notice.’
The court said, ‘No accused is allowed to seat during the proceedings. As they are facing specific allegations, we cannot allow them to take seat.’
‘This is not a trial court and the allegations against them are yet to be proved,’ TH Khan told the court adding, ‘You have acted arbitrarily.’
Quamrul got allotment of the land under a process under which many others got lands. The court cannot adopt a ‘pick and choose’ policy in this regard, he argued.
It is the matter of the government which had allotted the land, he said.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam defended the court saying the court was constitutionally bound to look into any irregularities.
At the beginning of the hearing, the court asked Asaduzzaman why he had not filed an affidavit-in opposition to explain Shafiq’s position.
Asaduzzaman replied that Shafiq had got the copy of the order on Sunday and he was only asked to appear in the court to explain his position. ‘Shafiq appeared as per the directive and I am representing him.’
He sought an adjournment of the hearing for a week for preparations but the court rejected the plea.
Deputy attorney general Altaf Hossain argued that there was a serious allegation against Shafiq that he had collected money in the name of flood-affected people in Bangladesh but the money was not distributed among them.
‘Scotland Yard is now investigating the matter,’ he added.
The court said Shafiq would face music if the allegation of misappropriation was proved.
About the allegation of allotment of plot to Shafiq, Altaf said due process was not followed in the allotment.
The government lands were given to the men who had power and held top positions at different levels, Altaf said.
The court observed that the government lands were occupied by heavyweights and asked Altaf whether such practices still continued.
Altaf replied in the positive.
To the court’s query, Asaduzzaman said Shafiq had got one acre of land in the name of JaiJaidin Company in 2003 on his application to the government.
He was the managing director of the company and his wife and son were shareholders.
The company did not exist after Shafiq and his family members were ousted from it in March 2007 by the army-led caretaker government, Asaduzzaman contended.
Shafiq was compelled by the then caretaker to transfer all shares as he [Shafiq] wrote in favour of democracy during interim regime, said Asaduzzaman.
He said that Shafiq was asked to transfer all the shares of Jaijaidin and the property on which he had founded the newspaper to HRC group owned by businessman Sayeed Hossain Chowdhury.
‘Not a single penny was given to Shafiq,’ Asaduzzaman said.
He said that Shafiq had purchased the land at Tk 90 lakh, which was set by the government in 2003. The Public Works Department owned the land.
When the court asked if there was any advertisement in newspapers, Asaduzzaman replied, ‘We do not know.’
Asked how Shafiq had come to know that the government would allot the land, Asaduzzaman said, ‘From the private source.’
As the court said Shafiq was ‘a very privileged person’, the counsel replied that Shafiq was not the only man to get the allotment.
He also said the land was not under the Hatirjheel-Begunbari project, which is about half a kilometre away.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha lawyer KM Saifuddin Ahmed also told the court that the land was not inside the project.
The court also heard three professors of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, including urban expert, Sarwar Jahan, who said that the Tejgaon industrial plots were not under the project.
Housing ministry deputy secretary Rashedul Hasan told the court that the allotments were given as per the ministry’s guideline issued in 2002.
The guideline stated that the committee would recommend allotment of lands after examining the applications invited.
As per the guideline, there was no rule for publishing advertisements in the media on the allotment of the government plots, he added.
The court observed the leaseholders were playing with the property of the republic.
These are industrial plots and they should be used for industrial purposes, the court observed.
The Rajuk lawyer said that there were many high-profile persons, who had got the plots.
Asaduzzaman said the court should know the details of the lands and the people who had got the allotments.
‘All those who have allotted the plots and who have got the allotments are thieves,’ the court said