Home minister's legal notice, our reply
On behalf of Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, Legum Consultants has sent a legal notice to The Daily Star, protesting a report headlined "A strange invitation" published in this newspaper on November 13. Following is the notice along with our reply:
Advocates, Barrister and Law Consultants
[Registered with A/D]
November 20, 2012
1. Mr. Mahfuz Anam
Editor and Publisher
The Daily Star, an English Daily
229, Tejgaon Industrial Area
2. Mr. Julfikar Ali Manik
The Daily Star, an English Daily
229, Tejgaon Industrial Area
3. Mr. Kailash Sarkar
The Daily Star, an English Daily
229, Tejgaon Industrial Area
---- Notice Receivers
Kazi Akhtar Hosain
LL.B. (Hon's), LL. M (1
st Class) DU
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
---- Notice Giver
For and on behalf of:
Dr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir
Son of Late Ashek Ali Khan
Ministry of Home Affairs
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Hon'ble Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh is our client. Upon appraisal of the papers, documents referred to us by our client and upon his instructions, we serve this legal notice upon you as under:
1. That our client Dr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir is a veteran public servant and a politician of the country. He is Presidium Member of Bangladesh Awami League. Earlier he held the post of Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Undertakings and Public Accounts. He was State Minister of the Ministry of Planning during the last Awami League Government. During the said period, he was also Minister in charge of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism and of Science and Technology. Currently he is holding the post of the Hon'ble Minister for the Ministry of Home Affairs.
2. That the notice receiver No. 1. is the Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star, an English Daily, having its office at 229, Tejgaon Industrial Area, Dhaka and the notice receiver No. 2 and 3 both are the correspondents of the said daily newspaper.
3. That you, the notice receivers published a report in The Daily Star dated 13.11.2012 in the heading "A Strange Invitation?" regarding alleged visit by the members of the law enforcing agency to the house of one Delwar Hossain, former Secretary of the Anti Corruption Commission at his residence in Ashulia area. In the said report you have added false stigma stating that the police asked the said Delwar Hossain to immediately meet our client which is absolutely a false and baseless story. There is no statement in the said report neither from the police nor from the said Delwar Hossain to the effect that our client sent police force or in any way involved in the allegation as leveled against our client, rather Mr. Delwar Hossain said, as appears from the said report, "a minister does not call any citizen this way to meet him" which clearly transpires that the statement made in the said report that the police asked Mr. Delwar Hossain to meet the Home Minister is absolutely false, fabricated and baseless story.
4 That from a careful perusal of the report, it transpires that you the notice receivers, have published the said report very purposely and cunning fully entangling our client though he has got no nexus, only to harm the reputation of our client. Besides though the report could not make out any nexus of our client, you have published a cartoon of our client with the said report which is disrespectful and disgraceful to our client and is absolutely a defamatory act punishable under section 500/501 of the Penal Code, 1860.
5. That the report dated 13.11.2012 published by you in The Daily Star is absolutely libelous and scandalous and a sheer example of harassment and above all is defamatory to our client. Our client has sustained unbearable loss to his social and political life which may be counted to the tune of Tk 50 crore which you the notice receivers are liable to pay to our client.
6. That the report published by you, the notice receiver, is nothing but a glaring example of yellow journalism and devoid of all customs and norms of fair journalism. You, the notice receivers, have published the said report without any basis and have taken an isolated incident as a means of victimizing a public figure and a veteran politician of the country. Therefore you are liable to be dealt with in accordance with law for publishing defamatory statements falsely involving our client.
7. That due to the said report published by you the notice receivers our client has been mentally upset and socially and politically harassed and humiliated and therefore you the notice receivers are under legal obligation to seek unconditional apology from our client to this effect. You are also liable to publish a rejoinder in this respect in the front page of you newspaper.
In view of the above facts and circumstances, we on behalf of our client, request you, the notice receivers, to seek unconditional apology to our client for publishing false and baseless report entangling our client with his cartoon and publish a rejoinder in this effect on the front page of the said newspaper within three days from receipt of this notice failing which we have clear instructions from our client to proceed with legal proceedings, both civil and criminal, against you in the appropriate court of law and in that event, you, the notice receivers, will be held liable for all costs and incidentals.
A copy of this notice is kept in our office for future reference.
Kazi Akhtar Hossain)
LL.B. (Hon's), LL. M (1st Class) DU
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
For: "Legum Consultants"
We publish the legal notice sent to us by a lawyer on behalf of Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir. Usually, we only publish the main points of such a notice. But in this case, we are printing the full text both as a mark of respect for the minister and also to share with our readers the full content and nature of the notice.
Our intention behind publishing the report was to bring to the notice of the public and of the authorities, especially to the home ministry/minister, that ex-secretary Delwar Hossain, a former secretary and former rector of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (BPATC), was being harassed by law enforcers of, not just one but two police stations, for unspecified reasons and without any legal document or formal complaints.
What attracted our attention and made us doubly concerned was these police officials, uniformed and plainclothes, were using the name of the honourable home minister as an excuse to harass and intimidate him. We have Delwar's complaint on record and the full text of what transpired between him and the police.
Our sense of public service and protecting a citizen's rights made us duty bound to publish it, especially in view of recent disappearances which circumstantially implicated the law enforcement agencies.
In our story we never attributed the activities of the police to the home minister and never said the home minister was in any way involved in the incident. We added quotes from the complainant and the police officials who admitted to visiting Delwar's house. Our story clearly shows we tried to contact the minister, as the comments of his PS amply prove.
It was our hope that the home minister or his ministry would immediately take up the matter, meet or talk to Delwar, either directly or by phone, and find out why police were visiting his house, on what grounds they were questioning him, etc, as it now appears that the minister's name was being improperly used.
Did the home minister or any officer from the ministry try to talk to Delwar? The legal notice provides no evidence of any such communication. One simple phone call would have clarified the matter and indicated to the minister or his office that police officials were using his name to harass an honourable citizen who is held in high esteem by his peers.
We dare say it was our expectation that the minister would be thankful to the press that we have brought to his notice this fact of police misusing his name; otherwise the incident would never have come to his notice.
Is it better that the police misuse his name and he never knows about it, or that we publish and make him aware? Asking the police will only bring forth a denial as their intention will be to protect themselves. How can the truth be found if only the police, not the victim, are questioned?
Instead of appreciation, we have a legal notice that does not address the facts published, but castigates us, accuses us of "yellow journalism" and threatens us with dire consequences if we do not retract and apologise. The threat of both civil and criminal legal action is nothing short of trying to intimidate the press and prevent us from reporting against ministers or other high officials. Defamation is a civil offence in democracies, but we are threatened with criminal offence, indicating the desire to punish us rather than to seek the truth.
On receiving the legal notice we further checked and double checked all facts connected with our story. We visited the spot of the incidents to check further concerning our report about the police visits to Delwar's home at Sripur of Ashulia.
Inhabitants of the area and Delwar's neighbours reconfirmed that police went to his house twice (on November 8 and 12). Both times there were police, some uniformed and some in plainclothes. Some of the neighbours also overheard conversations between the police and Delwar Hossain on both occasions. These people have reconfirmed the veracity of our report.
About the use of a cartoon/caricature, it is a normal journalistic practice, used to illustrate a story of public importance. Caricatures are never meant to defame or insult any public figure. This is a global practice and is evidenced by cartoons of all global leaders published every day in every democratic country of the world.
Our story in no way attributes the actions of the police to the home minister. We reiterate that our story was meant to alert the home minister that his name was being used to harass citizens. In publishing the story we feel that we have served the public interest and also helped the government to carry out its task. We conclude by appealing to the home minister that a simple independent inquiry, not by the very police who took part in the harassment, would reveal the truth to him.
A free and independent media is always an ally of an accountable government and democracy, never an enemy. We have played, and will continue to play, that role of an ally.
A strange invitation?
Cops press ACC's ex-secy during army-backed drive for meeting home minister; Savar police show domestic issue as reason
Police have suddenly become very curious about Delwar Hossain, the man who played a key role in launching the military-backed caretaker regime's anti-graft drive in 2007 as the Anti-Corruption Commission secretary.
They went to Delwar's Ashulia residence on the outskirts of the capital around 3:30pm yesterday and asked him to immediately meet Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir.
Replying to his queries, the police officials told him that they had no complaint or arrest warrant against him.
The home minister had asked the former bureaucrat to visit his office or residence, Delwar told The Daily Star over phone.
Neighbours told him Thursday night that police had come and waited for him for about an hour when he was not home. He spent the night and the following day thinking that police would come again.
Later, two teams from Savar and Ashulia police stations showed up yesterday afternoon and pressurised him till 5:15pm to meet the minister.
Delwar told police that they could arrest him if they had warrant.
"I was not sure whether the home minister really wanted me to meet him," he said. "A minister doesn't ask any citizen this way to meet him."
"Why should police come with such an unofficial invitation? If I go with police and anything happens to me, who would take the responsibility?" he said.
Despite repeated attempts, The Daily Star could not reach MK Alamgir. According to his PS, his mobile phone was switched off as he was at the dinner in honour of the Belarusian prime minister last night.
Although police officials at Delwar's residence said they had no complaint against him, Officer-in-Charge of Savar Police Station Mohammad Asaduzzaman told this paper, "We have complaint that despite having wife and children, he lives here [Ashulia] after marrying a young girl."
Replying to a question, the OC said they had only verbal complaint but did not say who had lodged it. "There is a problem in disclosing the matter."
Asked why his men went to Delwar's house which is under Ashulia Police Station, Asaduzzaman hung up his phone and could not be reached anymore.
Delwar, who has been staying alone at a rented house at Sreepur village in Ashulia for the last six years, rejected the allegation of marrying again.
"I live alone in Ashulia due to personal problems. But there is no question of getting married again," he said. "If police or anybody else can show evidence of my second marriage, they are welcome."
Second Officer Sazzad Rumon led the team from Savar Police Station.
Contacted last night, he first denied going to Delwar's house. But later he admitted it when told that the OC confirmed this.
He, however, declined to say anything beyond what the OC had said.
When told that there were discrepancies between the statements of the OC and Delwar, the second officer said, "It doesn't matter what Delwar said; our OC's version is correct."
Ashulia Police Station OC (Investigation) Mostofa Kamal said they sent their men as Savar police had sought their cooperation without specifying the purpose.
Contacted, Delwar's wife Roushan Ara Begum, who lives with her two daughters and a son at a house in the city's Mohammadpur, said she did not file any written or verbal complaint against her husband.
Delwar, 58, went on voluntarily retirement as a rector at Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre in 2011. Just before this job, he served as the land secretary.
He was made the secretary of the Anti-Corruption Commission in January 2007, when posts of the chairman and members of the commission were vacant.
Delwar, as secretary of the ACC, announced names of many bigwigs as corruption suspects as per the decision of the then military-backed caretaker government. He had also issued notices to many of them asking for wealth statements.
MK Alamgir, who was on the first such list of 50, submitted his wealth statement from prison after being detained along with other graft suspects.
After Awami League-led grand alliance came to power, Alamgir on many occasions criticised the 2007 ACC drives and activities of the caretaker administration.