Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ershad can now contest for Election

Boat Purchase Case-Ershad relieved of serving term for conviction in Japanese boat scam

Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad was freed yesterday from serving out the sentence given by the High Court (HC) on December 14 last year in a Japanese boat purchase case. He can now contest the polls as five years have already passed since his serving the sentence.The Public Prosecutor (PP) expressed concern over the trial court order yesterday while the defence was satisfied with it.

Ershad was found guilty of misappropriating Tk 33 crore in a shady deal for purchasing 520 Japanese boats and 10 water purifying machines for relief operation in 1989. On July 6, 1995, Judge Jinnat Ara of the trial court sentenced Ershad to three years' imprisonment. The court also fined him Tk 10,000 and in default, he was to be in jail for four more months.The same year, Ershad filed an appeal with the HC against the lower court verdict. Later, Justice Faisal Mahmud Faizee of the single-member HC bench rejected his appeal and handed down two years' imprisonment to the former president. Faizee also asked Ershad to surrender before the trial court without specifying any time or date. According to the prosecution, Ershad was shown arrested in the case on May 13, 1992 after submission of the probe report the same day. He was granted bail on August 19, 1996 and released from jail on January 9, 1997.

In yesterday's order, Judge Amirul said Ershad has 'already served out his sentence in full' and he may remain 'as it is till for further order'. Ershad, his party leaders and lawyers appeared before the court at 10:15am, and the court started the hearing at 11:30am. Additional police force and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) were deployed on and outside the court premises to avoid any untoward incident.

Mentioning a provision of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), defence counsel lawyer, Rokanuddin told the court that if the total period of one's custody is longer than the period of imprisonment, he or she shall be deemed to have served out the sentence of imprisonment. So, Ershad need not be in custody to serve out the sentence, as he has been in custody for over three years.

After an hour-long hearing of the both sides, the judge took an hour to prepare his order and passed it at 1:30pm in a packed courtroom. Section 35(A) of the CrPC says: Where a person is in custody at the time of conviction and the offence for which he is convicted is not punishable with death or in prison for life, the court may, in passing the sentence of imprisonment, take into consideration the continuous period of his custody immediately preceding his conviction.The court in its order mentioned that Section 35 (A) is applicable in this case.