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Pro-BNP lawyers demand new election committee, Cops assaulted lawyers, journos

One-sided voting in SCBA under police protection

16 March 2023
One-sided voting in SCBA under police protection

A police personnel grabs a protesting lawyer by the collar during elections of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) in the capital on Wednesday. NN photo

Gulam Rabbani :
Lawyers of the Supreme Court had never faced problem with casting their votes in the elections of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), which is also known as the most influential professional organization in the country.
However, over the past two years, the situation has taken a different shape. Last year there was a kind of crisis over the vote counting and declaration of results. And this time, the lawyers of the highest court of the country did not even get a fair environment for voting in the election.
A chaotic situation has been erupted between Awami League and BNP-backed lawyers of the Supreme Court centering annual election of the Supreme Court Bar Association for the session of 2023-24.
The lawyers of both sides on Wednesday engaged in several rounds of clashing. Around 50 pro-BNP lawyers and at least 12 journalists were injured in the police attack during the clashes.
Meanwhile, despite the opposing positions of the two sides, voting of the annual election of the SCBA began at 12.00pm on Wednesday with the participation of only government-backed 'White-panel's lawyers through unprecedented police protection.
Pro-BNP lawyers basically boycotted the election even though no official announcement was made. They demanded fresh elections by forming an impartial election management commission.
According to the announced schedule, the two-day election of the association was schemed to be held on Wednesday and Thursday.
The polling was supposed to start at 10.00am on Wednesday, but since morning, the lawyers of the two panels have been engaged in an altercation inside auditorium of the association regarding the election management committee.
At that time, pro-BNP lawyers were seen chanting slogans inside the auditorium saying, "We want the commission first, then the election". Barrister AM Mahbub Uddin Khokan and Barrister Ruhul Quddus Kazal, President and Secretary candidates of the pro-BNP panel respectively, then demanded a fresh election conducting committee as the chief of the election conducting committee formed earlier unanimous Senior Advocate Md Munsurul Hoque Chowdhury resigned.
The arguments between the lawyers of the two sides continued on the matter. In the meantime police at 11.40 pm entered the polling center that was set at the auditorium of the SCBA. Witnesses said police first entered the auditorium to evacuate the protesting lawyers. At one stage, pro-BNP and pro-Awami League lawyers started fighting and police became involved.
At least 50 pro-BNP lawyers were seriously injured during the charging of the police, said Advocate Gazi Kamrul Islam Sajal who is also the General Secretary of SC unit of the Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum. He further said at least two lawyers of their side including a candidate have been hospitalized after police hitting.
The law enforcers also attacked journalists when they were taking photos and videos of police action on the protesting lawyers.
The injured journalists include Jannatul Ferdous Tanvee of Independent TV, Jabed Akter of ATN News, SM Nur Mohammad of Ajker Patrika, Prothom Alo photo journalist Shubhra Kanti Das, multimedia reporter of Daily Manab Zamin Abdullah Al Maruf, ATN Bangla camera person Humayun Kabir, DBC camera persons Mehedi Hasan and Baishakhi TV camera person Ibrahim.
Jabed was rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Law Reporters' Forum, an organization of the journalists working on the legal affairs issues, have condemned the police attack on the journalist during their professional duties. LRF President Ashutosh Sarkar and Secretary Ahmed Sarwar Bhuiyan have issued a statement on behalf of the organization demanding exemplary punishment for the police members who were involved in the journalists' assaulting.
The SCBA leaders unanimously formed the committee led by Senior Advocate Md Munsurul Hoque Chowdhury. But he resigned on Monday last from the Convener post of the election conducting committee due to personal issues.
So, pro-BNP lawyers have been demanding formation of the committee under the leadership of a person who is "acceptable" to all.
In this context, whether there will be a voting or not, who will be the convener, or other members of the committee will conduct the election, there was a discussion among the lawyers throughout the day on Tuesday.
In the evening on Tuesday the pro-Awami lawyers announced the name of Advocate Md Moniruzzaman as the Convener of the election conducting committee. On the contrary pro-BNP lawyers announced the name of Adovcate ASM Moktar Kabir Khan for the same post.
When Moniruzzaman tried to sign the ballot papers then the pro-BNP lawyers barred him. It pushed the lawyers of the both sides into an altercation. In this situation a huge number of police were deployed in the SC premises.
Finally at 3.00 pm on Wednesday pro-BNP lawyers held a press briefing in the SC premises. Their Secretary candidate Barrister Ruhul Quddus demanded a fresh election conducting committee. They also sought Chief Justice's interference regarding the issue.
After the briefing, the pro-BNP lawyers attacked and vandalized the polling booths around 3:30pm on Wednesday. They vandalised fans, chairs, tables and other furniture at the SCBA auditorium, and police took action to control the situation.
After the voting ended around 5:50pm, Awami League-backed lawyers gathered outside the polling centre and were chanting slogans against pro-BNP lawyers.
At the entrance to the Supreme Court, additional police have been deployed, who kept the polling centre surrounded.
Lawyer Assaduzzaman Monir, a member of the election conducting committee, said a total of 2217 votes out of 8602 votes were cast on the first day of the election. Voting will resume on Thursday on due time, he added.

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