"It is hereby declared illegal," Moazzem Husain, the Chief Judge of a High Court panel hearing the high profile case, said while ruling in favour of a petition which argued that Jamaat should never have been allowed to register as a political party as its charter breached the secular Constitution. (Agencies)
"By majority, rule is made absolute and registration given to Jamaat by the Election Commission is declared illegal and void," Justice Husain said amid tight security outside the courthouse here.
Anti-Jamaat protesters gathered outside the packed court flashed V-for-victory signs in celebration, even as Islamists took to the streets of Dhaka and other parts of the country, blocking roads and attacking vehicles, police said.
Scores of Jamaat supporters set a bus on fire and damaged several cars as violence broke out just outside the northern city of Bogra. The party issued a statement calling for a 48-hour shut down across the country beginning August 12.
It has also moved the Appellate Division to overturn the judgment which makes its participation in the coming general elections uncertain. The Election Commission has said the ruling meant Jamaat could not stand in the elections scheduled for the end of this year or early next year.
The three-member panel of justices Husain, M Enayetur Rahim and Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque pronounced the judgment accepting a writ petition that challenged the legality of Jamaat's registration as a political party.
Bangladesh Tariqat Federation's secretary general Rezaul Haque Chandpuri and 24 others had filed the writ petition on January 25, 2009. Tariqat is a group that preaches Sufi philosophy and promotes secularism.
In the petition, they said that Jamaat-e-Islami was a religion-based political party and it did not believe in independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. The Tariqat Federation claimed in the petition that the Representation of People Order (RPO) Law does not allow the registration of a communal outfit as a political party.
Police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) men enforced a strict vigil around the court complex as tension mounted ahead of the verdict while officials said they also kept prepared extra forces to face any law and order situation.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed earlier said that Jamaat is likely to challenge the High Court verdict and the government would await the highest court's judgment and then might "take a decision if the party should be banned".
The verdict comes amid intensified demands for outlawing the Jamaat blamed for "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan. The left-leaning and youth groups opposed the party, saying it does not believe in the very emergence of Bangladesh while its leaders and activists carried out massive atrocities siding with Pakistani troops in the 1971 war.
A high-powered special tribunal earlier this month called Jamaat a "criminal organization" as it delivered verdict against the party's then East Pakistan wing chief Ghulam Azam on war crimes charges. The 91-year-old supremo was sentenced to 90-year in jail this month for masterminding atrocities during the 1971 war.
So far five Jamaat leaders have been sentenced to death for murder, mass murder, rape and religious persecution in the 1971 war since the trial of war crimes suspects began in 2010, triggering violent protests across the country.
In a report released today, New York-based Human Rights Watch said that violent protests over the verdicts so far left at least 150 people dead in places of Jamaat's stronghold. But tens of thousands of people staged round-the-clock sit in demonstrations and candle lit vigils, demanding banning of Jamaat and maximum punishment for its leaders.
Jammat, a crucial ally of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, came under massive public outrage afresh in 2007 after it denied its role during the liberation war calling the allegations against the party "all false and ill-motivated" and saying the "anti-liberation forces never existed".
Founded by Maulana Maududi in 1941 in British India, Jamaat became the main Islamist political party in both Pakistan and India after the partition in 1947. Immediately after the independence, Jamaat was banned but it reappeared after a military putsch on August 15, 1975 when Bangladesh's founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members.
The coup toppled the post-independence secular Awami League government while the subsequent regimes allowed the religion-based parties, including Jamaat, to return to politics lifting a previous ban under the 1972 constitution.
"It is hereby declared illegal," Moazzem Husain, the Chief Judge of a High Court panel hearing the high profile case, said while ruling in favour of a petition which argued that Jamaat should never have been allowed to register as a political party as its charter breached the secular Constitution.