Dhaka: Bangladesh`s High Court on Thursday
declared "illegal" a 1986 amendment to the Constitution that
had legitimised the installation of the then army chief HM
Ershad to power in a bloodless coup in 1982, describing the
ruling Awami League`s ally as an "usurper".
"The Seventh Amendment is void, illegal and made
without lawful authority," said a two-member bench comprising
judges Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Sheikh Mohammad Zakir
"He (Ershad) cannot avoid liability as being a
usurper," the verdict read but added that the government would
decide about the fate of Ershad, whose Jatiya Party is a
crucial ally of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s Awami
League-led grand alliance government.
The seventh amendment had ratified the proclamation
of martial law and other regulations, orders and instructions
by former military dictator Ershad between March 24, 1982, and
November 10, 1986.
The High Court order came just a month after the
Appellate Division of the Supreme Court issued the full text
of its February 2 judgement declaring the nearly identical 5th
amendment to the constitution illegal suggesting "suitable
punishment" to perpetrators of martial laws.
"We are putting on record our total disapproval of
Martial Law. The perpetrators of such illegalities should also
be suitably punished and condemned so that in future no
Adventist, no usurper, would dare to defy the people, their
Constitution, their Government, established by them with
their consent," the apex court judgement said.
It added: "Let us bid farewell to all kinds of extra
constitutional adventure for ever."
Ershad appeared as the strongman of Bangladesh
after the death of President Ziaur Rahman, who also was a
general turned politician, in an abortive coup in 1981.
Ershad subsequently assumed power in a bloodless
putsch in 1982 toppling the then elected government of
President Abdus Sattar.
He ruled the country with an iron hand for nearly a
decade as the longest serving head of the state, defying
political protests, until 1990, when a massive pro-democracy
mass upsurge eventually ousted his regime.
Both Ziaur Rahman, the founder of now opposition
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) that now is being led by
his wife ex-premier Khaleda Zia and Ershad, initially assumed
power through military coups and later floated their own
parties to appear as politicians.
Hasina and her archrival Zia spearheaded years of
anti-Ershad campaign while his ouster led him to jail where he
languished for nearly six years to face several graft and