The Supreme Court chamber judge yesterday upheld a High Court verdict that declared illegal the government circulars and gazette notifications that fixed the minimum age of freedom fighters at 12 and a half years in 1971.
Chamber Judge of the SC’s Appellate Division Justice Md Nuruzzaman also sent a writ petition, filed by the government seeking a stay on the HC judgement, to the full bench of the apex court for its hearing on June 23.
As the SC chamber judge did not pass any order on the government’s stay petition, the HC verdict will remain upheld until further orders, ABM Altaf Hossain, a lawyer for the petitioners, told The Daily Star.
Following 15 separate writ petitions filed by several freedom fighters, the HC on May 19 declared the circulars and gazette notifications, which fixed the minimum age of freedom fighters at 12 and a half years in 1971, illegal and unconstitutional.
According to a gazette notification issued on January 17 last year by the liberation war affairs ministry, people who were aged at least 12 and a half years on November 30, 1971, would be eligible to apply for the status of a freedom fighter.
Earlier in November 2016, the ministry issued a circular and gazette notification imposing the minimum age of freedom fighters at 13 on March 26, 1971.
The government has so far changed the definition of freedom fighters 10 times and it’s list six times since the country’s independence. A scrutiny of the war heroes’ list is currently underway again.
On May 19, the HC in a verdict said that the definition of freedom fighters was determined by the President’s Order 94 of 1972. It can only be changed by the parliament, not by a circular or gazette.
The President’s Order 94 of 1972 does not allow the government to fix or re-fix the age of the freedom fighters, the HC said.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam appeared for the government.