The High Court on Sunday declared illegal the gazette notifications and circulars published by the government fixing the minimum age limit for a freedom fighter.
The HC bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil passed the order after hearing 15 writ petitions filed challenging the legality of fixing 12 years and six months as of November 30, 1971 as the minimum age to be eligible for earning the status of a freedom fighter.
The court also declared illegal the subsection 11 of section 2 of Bangladesh Freedom Fighters’ Welfare Trust Act-2018.
It asked the authorities concerned to provide the freedom fighters allowances within 60 days of getting the verdict.
During hearing, the HC said, “Not only Bangladesh but also anywhere in the world, freedom fighters cannot be tied to the age frame. People are getting involved in the liberation war out of their emotion and love for the country. Love can’t be determined by age.”
He also said freedom fighters, aged 7-8, took part in the World War-1 and there’re many books in Bangladesh on children freedom fighters. It’s nothing new. The petitioners have been getting all the benefits for the last 45 years. So, if we deny the freedom fighters who liberated the country, we can’t move forward.”
Omar Sadat, ABM Altaf Hossain, Jahangir Jamaddar, Nargis Tanjima, Selina Akter Chowdhury, Sharif Ahmed, Eunus Ali Akond, Subhrajit Banarjee and ARM Quamruzzaman Kakon stood for the petitioners while deputy attorney general Mokhlesur Rahman represented the state.
On November 10, 2016, a gazette was issued fixing 13 years as of March 26, 1971 as the minimum age required for enrolling as a freedom fighter.
Later on January 17 last, the gazette was amended through a notification setting 12 years and six months as of November 30, 1971 as the minimum age requirement.
Fifteen freedom fighters filed separate writ petitions with the High Court in 2016, 2017 and 2018 challenging the legality of the gazettes.
On July 15, 2018, the High Court asked the authorities concerned to explain as to why the notification fixing 12 years and six months as of November 30, 1971 as the minimum age to be eligible for earning the status of a freedom fighter should not be declared illegal.
The bench of Justice Mainul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal had issued the rule after hearing a writ petition filed by Director of Geological Survey of Bangladesh Mahmud Hassan challenging the notification issued on January 17 last.
Mahmud Hassan joined the government service on the freedom fighter quota. As per the new notification, his age was 12 years, four months and 12 days on November 30, 1971.
As per the Public Servants (Retirement) Act 1974, Mahmud should get the chance to work till 60 years, said his lawyer Advocate Altaf Hossain. “But due to fixing the minimum age required for being eligible to be a freedom fighter, Mahmud is being deprived of the chance.”unb