The court raised the question of how an Awami League leader Sharmin Jahan, who became the assistant registrar of Dhaka University, ran a business and provided masks to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) hospital.
The court of Dhaka chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) judge Moinul Islam asked accused Sharmin Jahan whether she could open a business as an assistant registrar of Dhaka University and supply masks to another government institution like BSMMU.
Sharmin Jahan stood in silence in the witness box at the time.
DU authorities said Sharmin Jahan was running the business without their permission. Notably, Sharmin was on study leave during the arrest.
She went to Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, for PhD with a scholarship from the Chinese government. Sharmin returned to the country on 23 January after the lockdown in Wuhan due to novel coronavirus outbreak.
Speking to Prothom Alo, DU registrar Enamuzzaman said that if any official of the university wants to be involved in any part-time work or business outside the institution, s/he has to get permission from the university. “Sharmin Jahan did not take any such permission.”
Sharmin, however, claimed in court that she was innocent and became a victim of a deep conspiracy
Asked whether any action would be taken against her, the registrar said, "We will take necessary action as directed by the higher authorities."
Sharmin Jahan was taken to the court under tight security on Saturday afternoon. Public prosecutor (PP) Hemayet Uddin Khan asked the accused Sharmin, "Do you work as an assistant registrar at Dhaka University?"
In reply, Sharmin said, "Yes, I work as an assistant registrar at Dhaka University."
Hemayet Uddin Khan asked despite working full time in an institution like Dhaka University, by what authority did she open a business? Sharmin Jahan said, “Many others from the Dhaka University like me are doing such businesses. What is my fault?”
Then PP Hemayet Uddin Khan again wanted to know clearly from Sharmin Jahan, "By what law did you open a business?"
PP Hemayet Uddin Khan told the court during the hearing, "Despite being an assistant registrar at Dhaka University, the accused has opened an illegal business in her name. The organisation has no legality. There is no scope for such activities in the service rule of the accused. It's a professional misconduct."
Earlier on Friday night, Shahbagh police arrested the Awami League leader, Sharmin Jahan, in a case filed by BSMMU for providing fake masks.
Detective branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police plead for a three-day remand of Sharmin to the Dhaka CMM court. After hearing both sides, the court granted the remand. Sharmin is now in custody of DB.
Hospital’s director brigadier general Zulfiqar Ahmed Amin said Sharmin hid from the BSMMU authorities that she was an assistant registrar at Dhaka University
Sharmin, however, claimed in court that she was innocent and became a victim of a deep conspiracy.
BSMMU, on the other hand, had admitted that masks from the first two lots provided by Sharmin’s organisation were good. The hospital authorities complained about the third lot as that were of low quality.
Sharmin said she replied in writing to the allegation brought by the BSSMMU authorities.
Sharmin's lawyer Kazi Muhammad Panir Hossain also claimed in court that his client was the victim of a conspiracy.
Hospital’s director brigadier general Zulfiqar Ahmed Amin said Sharmin hid from the BSMMU authorities that she was an assistant registrar at Dhaka University.
He told Prothom Alo over phone that they did not know anything about her profession or political identity. The quality of the masks that Sharmin's company provided for the first two rounds was good. However, the masks that were provided for the third time were of low quality.
Plaintiff of the case, BSMMU proctor Mozaffar Ahmed, said that on 27 June, the university issued a work order for Sharmin Jahan to supply 11,000 face masks.
He said, there was no problem with the masks of the first and second lot but the third and fourth lots were not of the quality as per the specification. The braces of some masks have been torn, the printed text of some masks has been found to contain defective English text, the security codes and lot numbers of some masks have been found to be fake by visiting the website of the manufacturer.
Legal experts say Sharmin Jahan being as an assistant registrar at Dhaka University cannot do business.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdin Malik told Prothom Alo, "Teachers of public universities can teach in any other educational institution with the permission of the university. The teacher has to deposit a part of his salary to the Dhaka University. But it is against the rules for a non-teaching employee and will be considered as misconduct. However, since no one is following the rules nowadays, there is no accountability, it would not be surprising if many officials and employees are found to be involved in similar activities.”
Speaking to Prothom Alo, DU vice chancellor Akhtaruzzaman said, “We are all regular employees of Dhaka University. Therefore, we are to serve this university. We have to remember that irrespective to our positions. Those who are part-time workers are different.”
Regarding the Sharmin incident, he said that Dhaka University does not indulge in any work against the policy. It will be the same in this case. I have asked for the papers of Sharmin Jahan. “We are full-time employees of the university. We take salary from the state treasury for that. So we have to serve the insitution full-time.”