Grameen Bank founder Yunus loses last legal battle

Supreme Court rejected Yunus Khan`s appeal against his sacking as the chief of the microlending Grameen Bank.

Last Updated: Apr 05, 2011, 23:45 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh`s Nobel laureate Muhammad
Yunus on Tuesday lost his final legal battle to remain as the chief
of the micro lending Grameen Bank he founded nearly three
decades ago as the Supreme Court rejected his appeal against
the sacking, capping his month-long dispute with authorities.

"Dismissed," Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque pronounced
after the rejection of his appeal by a 7-member Appellate
Division of the Supreme Court, which upheld an earlier High
Court verdict validating his sacking as Managing Director of
Grameen Bank by the central Bangladesh Bank, during a 4-hour
hearing.

Earlier on March 8, a two-member High Court bench, after
three days of hearing, had rejected 70-year-old Yunus` writ
challenging his removal from the pioneering micro lending
agency that he founded in 1983.

Yunus was not present at the apex court when it delivered
the verdict while his Grameen Bank postponed a press briefing
they called immediately after the judgement, sighting no
reasons.

But Grameen Bank lawyers said another petition filed by
nine Directors of the microfinance institution, who stood by
Yunus, would come up for apex court`s consideration tomorrow
though several legal experts feared it was unlikely to bring
any different result.

The verdict came as reports earlier this week said
negotiations to resolve the Yunus issue outside the court
progressed towards a "positive direction" amid growing
international criticism of his unceremonious dismissal from
the microfinance bank.

No progress of the negotiation process, however, had been
reported by either of the sides yet but Finance Minister AMA
Muhith had earlier said the government looked for ways for an
amicable settlement of the issue of Yunus, who visibly rallied
huge international support behind him after his removal.

Yunus last week appeared before a five-member government
committee constituted in January this year to "review" the
Grameen Bank transactions, which, however, was not directly
linked to his removal.

Committee`s chair Monwar Ahmed at that time said
Yunus told them that he was now thinking how he could be
associated with the Grameen Bank in an "alternative way."

The apex court had earlier adjourned until April 4 the
hearing on Yunus` appeal, allowing both sides to take more
time to reach a compromise as insisted by the United States
and other major development partners.

Bangladesh Bank, which is nominally independent from the
government, fired Yunus on March 2 this year as it found that
that his 2000 appointment as the microlending agency`s
executive chief was faulty because the central bank`s
mandatory approval was not obtained at that time.

PTI

Yunus` chief counsel Kamal Hossain today told the apex
court that the central bank could give post facto approval of
the 2001 Grameen Bank board Regulation that the Nobel laureate
could stay as long as he wished as its chief.

But Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said there was no
scope for the approval of the regulation as Yunus exceeded the
60-year age limit for banking services 10 years ago.

Yunus` experiment of poor men`s banking earned Bangladesh
the repute of being the home of microcredit. He himself got
the Nobel Peace Prize along with his Grameen Bank in 2006.
The government has 25 per cent stake in Grameen Bank that
employs 24,000 people and provides collateral-free loans to
eight million borrowers, the vast majority from rural areas.

Analysts earlier said Yunus` troubles stemmed from 2007
when he announced formation of a political party, an idea that
did not please either Premier Sheikh Hasina or her archrival
Khaleda Zia of BNP, while he himself abandoned it within
months.

But Yunus` removal came as he apparently developed a
growing dispute with the ruling Awami League in recent months
after a Norwegian TV aired a documentary questioning the
transaction of a Norwegian donor fund violating the agreement.

Despite a green chit issued by Norwegian government
relieving him of the allegations, the government formed a
five-member "review committee" to examine Grameen Bank
transactions, though his removal came ahead of the submission
of the report by the investigators.

Yunus was summoned to lower courts three times in the
past several months in cases nominally connected to Grameen
Bank, the model of which was copied in a number of developing
and developed countries despite criticism of its effectiveness
in removing poverty and for its interest rates.

Amid a massive international and civil society criticism
of Yunus` removal, the US last month warned that its relations
with Bangladesh could be exposed to threats unless the Hasina
government reached a compromise with the Nobel laureate.

"If there is no compromise, it will have an effect on our
bilateral relations," US Assistant Secretary of State Robert
Blake told newsmen at the fag end of his five-day visit to
Bangladesh when he met Hasina and several other senior
government leaders.

Yunus earlier this week told a foreign newspaper he was
"not a political threat to anyone" in Bangladesh and would
like to resolve issues "if any" with Prime Minister Hasina as
the negotiation process was launched.

"The real issue at stake is the right of the bank`s 8.3
million borrowers to control their own financial future or
whether they will be forced to cede their control to outside
authorities," Yunus said.

PTI