Verdict on Yunus tomorrow

Dhaka: Bangladesh High Court is expected to deliver its verdict on Monday on a petition by Nobel laureate and micro-financier Muhammad Yunus challenging the legality of a central bank order removing him as the chief of the Grameen Bank.

The court is likely to rule tomorrow, Bangladesh Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam said, after counsels for 70-year-old Yunus strongly argued that his removal was illegal and unconstitutional.

The government will present its case tomorrow before the court.

The HC bench heard the submissions by Yunus` counsels Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud and Advocate Mahmudul Islam for about two hours and then adjourned the hearing till 2:00 pm tomorrow.

Yunus has been in a running battle with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since last year after allegations by a Norwegian television channel that his bank had misappropriated foreign funds by dodging taxes and accusations that he had overstayed in his post long after the retirement age of 60.

Yunus has denied financial irregularities and political observers say that the fight between him and Hasina was over the banker`s political ambitions.

Along with Yunus as many as nine Grameen Bank directors had moved a supporting petition for him.

The sacking of the noted micro-financier has come under criticism internationally, with Norway`s international development minister flaying the move.

Grameen Bank founded by Yunus in 1983, pioneered the concept of reducing poverty by making tiny loans to the poor.

His work spurred a boom in such lending across the developing world and earned him and the bank the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Hasina and Yunus recently had a verbal dual when the micro-financier suggested that he should form his own political party.

Following this tiff, Hasina accused the Nobel laureate of treating the Grameen Bank as his personal property and claimed that the group "was sucking blood from the poor".

The development came two days after the Nobel Laureate apparently was exposed to a fresh trouble on retirement age issue as the central bank in a letter to the government reportedly said he was flouting Bangladesh retirement rules by serving as head of his Grameen Bank.

Yunus was unceremoniously relieved of his duties on Wednesday through a Bangladesh Bank letter sent to Grameen Bank Chairman Khondoker Muzammel Huq.

The central bank said Yunus failed to seek its approval when he was reappointed as the managing director in 2000, violating one of the statutes of the partly state-owned Grameen Bank.

Grameen Bank, however, maintained that his position was legal. Yunus on Thursday filed a writ petition challenging the central bank order that removed him from the post of Grameen Bank MD as the wider international community showed its displeasure at the way the Nobel Prize winner for Bangladesh was treated.

With Yunus` forced exit, the micro finance institution`s journey of over 30 years enters a different stage.

He had started his lone campaign to provide loans to the poor, who had always been overlooked by the traditional banks, from his home village of Jobra in Chittagong.

The government move surprised many of Grameen`s borrowers, who dubbed him the pathfinder in elevating them from poverty.

Customers and employees of Grameen Bank along with members of the civil society yesterday staged peaceful street protests and formed human chain across Bangladesh to protest a government decision to remove Muhammad Yunus as chief of the micro-financing institution.

Meanwhile, Grameen Bank had rejected the government -claimed grounds of removal of its founder Nobel Laureate Yunus, terming it as "incorrect" and asked the government to stop "harassing" Yunus.