Published, New Age, 9 March 2011 (original link not working)
Yunus loses court battle
David Bergman and M Moneruzzaman
The High Court on Tuesday upheld the legality of the Bangladesh Bank order which last week removed Muhammed Yunus from his position as managing director of Grameen Bank.
In its decision, which took over an hour to read out, the court held that the 1993 staff regulations, which stipulated that the maximum age of retirement was 60, applied to Muhammed Yunus.
Rokunuddin Mahmud, representing Muhammed Yunus told New Age that he had advised his client to appeal to the appellate division, and that he had been instructed by his client to do so.
‘We will move a petition before the Judge in chambers. We will be asking for some kind of stay order,’ Mahmud said.
Muzammel Huq, the new government appointed chairman of Grameen Bank told New Age that he pland to convene a meeting of the board of directors in the next few days.
The ruling, read out by Justice Md Momtazuddin Ahmed, held that the 1999 resolution of Grameen Bank’s Board of Directors, which took place when Muhammed Yunus was approaching the age of 60, was not valid as it was inconsistent with the earlier staff regulations.
This board resolution had allowed the managing director to remain in his position beyond the age of 60, and had been relied on in court by Yunus’s lawyers.
As a result, the court said, at the point when Muhammed Yunus became 60, he ceased to be managing director.
The court’s decision means that when Muhammed Yunus received his Nobel Peace Prize, he was, in effect, unlawfully holding the position of managing director of Grameen Bank.
Also present in court was Justice Gobindra Tagore who together with Justice Ahmed had heard three days of argument.
The court also ruled that Bangladesh Bank had the power under section 45 of the Banking Companies Act 1991 to order Yunus’s dismissal, even though the Bangladesh Bank’s dismissal letter did not mention the provision or the basis upon which the power was being used.
The court decision also stated that the passage of time between 2000 when Yunus reached the age of 60 and in 2011 when the Bangladesh Bank ordered his dismissal, did not stop the operation of the law.
After the ruling was given, Mahbubey Alam, the Attorney General said it was now upto the government to decide what action to take.
‘I can announce Bangladesh Bank’s order is lawful.’ he told assembled journalists in his office building in the court premises
‘Yunus was appointed as managing director on certain conditions. It meant that if there was any variation of the terms of his employment, Grameen Bank would require permission from the Bangladesh Bank. Yunus held the position after crossing sixty years of age violating the terms and conditions of his employment.’
He went onto say, ‘The question I ask is there any institution that allows a person to hold a position for an unidentified period. Yunus became 60 in 2000, but he held the position for an unidentified period without approval.’
The Attorney General also commented that, ‘There was no connection between winning the Nobel prize and holding the office of managing director.
Yunus got the Nobel prize for his contribution to the bank, he said
The Grameen Bank’s general manager Jannat-E-Quanine, said that the bank was ‘very disappointed’ in the order and hoped that nothing would be done to ‘jeopardize the stability of Grameen Bank’.
The Friends of Grameen which is chaired by Mary Robinson the former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commission for Human Rights said that that the court decision was ‘fundamentally groundless and political’
A UK government spokesperson told New Age that, ‘Together with the international community, we are following events concerning Prof Yunus very closely.
‘Grameen Bank is a well known and well respected development institution. We have great respect for Prof Yunus and the work he has carried out with Grameen.’
The US state department said, ‘We continue to monitor the situation and hope that an acceptable compromise can be reached.’
Sara Hossain, a member of Yunus’s legal team told a press conference that, ‘Yunus is a very respectable people as he founded the Grameen Bank which has earned the country prestige.
She said that she thought a vested quarter had moved to tarnish his image and as part of their ploy secured the Bangladesh Bank order.
None of the petitioner’s senior lawyers, Dr Kamal Hossain, Mahmudul Islam, and Rokunuddin Mahmud were present in court when the order was given.
Yunus, who had been present for all three days of legal argument, also did not attend.
Jannat-E-Quanine at a briefing in the Grameen Bank’s head office after the verdict said, ‘We have received the order and are very disappointed ..’
She said that the bank was consulting there lawyer to decide the future course of action.
‘We hope that in the meantime nothing will jeopardize the stability of the Grameen Bank,’ she added.