- In 2016, the initial legal action targeted 14 former Grameen Telecom employees for failing to repay loans
- The aggregate number of cases filed in the Labor Court of Dhaka reached 107
- Permanent employment of workers and employees has not been ensured upon the completion of the probationary period, violating Section 8(7) of the Bangladesh Labor Law
- From 1997 to 2022, a total of BDT 977 billion has been transferred to the accounts of Yunus and his affiliated organizations from the company’s operational council
- Dr. Muhammad Yunus, along with 13 others, face charges of embezzlement of BDT 250,227,806 from the Welfare Fund for the assimilation of 25 crore 22 lac 780 taka
You can also read: Law Punishes Yunus—Every Act of Cruelty Comes with a Price
In a landmark ruling on Monday, January 1, 2024, at 2:15 PM, the Labor Court-3 in Dhaka, led by Judge Begum Sheikh Merina Sultana, issued an 84-page verdict, condemning Dr. Muhammad Yunus to imprisonment in connection to labor law violations. The resounding verdict raises the pivotal question of whether Dr. Yunus, despite his Nobel Prize, can transcend the law.
The unequivocal answer is no – everyone stands equal before the law, and no one is exempt.
The global spotlight on this case, covered by international media giants like Al Jazeera, South China Morning Post, Gulf News, France 24, The Guardian, Bloomberg, AFP, and Times of India, further emphasizes the gravity of the situation.
The culture of judicial impunity, prevailing since the assassination of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975, and the subsequent judicial closure of the trial for the jail killings on November 3, has persisted through various regimes, including those led by military ruler Ziaur Rahman, and Khaleda Zia, and ultimately, the BNP-Jamaat coalition government led by Khaleda Zia. Nevertheless, Dr. Yunus’s imprisonment indicates that individuals associated with this historical legacy are no longer immune to the country.
Grameen Telecom’s Legal Quandary as Workers Take the Lead
There are claims from certain quarters suggesting that the government initiated the case against Dr. Yunus. However, in reality, it was the workers who filed the case. Both the Labor Inspection Department and the Factory Inspection Department conducted multiple inspections related to this matter. Despite several opportunities, Grameen Telecom failed to address the issues and instead chose to file cases against some workers, accusing them of bribery. Another case is also connected to this matter.
Do you believe that the legal issues surrounding Nobel laureates have broader implications for the global community’s commitment to justice, and if so, how can these challenges be addressed?Actually peace and justice are placed simultaneously for the very reasons of the outcomes that are expected from these two noble terminologies. Noble for peace is awarded also taking into account the contribution the proposed person or entity has done in ensuring justice in his or its arena.
In case of Dr. Mohammad Yunus who has recently been convicted by a labour court for violating the country’s labour laws and has been sentenced with six months imprisonment and also with a fine of TK 30000, once again questions may arise as to the integrity in selecting the personnel to be awarded with Nobel Peace Prize after one of Aung Sung Suki another Nobel Laureate who silently patronized the atrocities committed against Rohingya people.
The question derives its validity more for a person like doctor Yunus who is not a law abiding and has breached the rights of the labourers and has been convicted consequently. Law is equal for all. Now it is time to see whether the conviction is properly executed as dauntlessly sentenced.
In 2016, the initial legal action targeted 14 former Grameen Telecom employees for failing to repay loans. Following this, Dr. Muhammad Yunus faced an additional 93 cases from present employees related to overdue loans. The aggregate number of cases filed in the Labor Court of Dhaka reached 107. Moreover, an extra 14 cases were instituted against him by an additional 14 employees.
Regarding the allegations, in April 2019, a factory inspector from the Labor Inspection Department inspected Grameen Communications, identifying various irregularities and providing directives for correction. On May 7, the concerned party responded in writing to the postal department.
Later, on October 10 of the same year, another inspection revealed evidence of 10 violations at the institution. However, despite seeking an extension, Grameen Telecom did not submit a response within the specified time. Consequently, the plaintiff filed a complaint under Section 33 (h) and Section 307 of the Bangladesh Labor Law 2006, as amended by the Bangladesh Labor (Amendment) Act 2013, accusing them of a punishable offense.
Legal Woes Mount as Charges of Embezzlement Surface
The Director General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments filed a complaint against Grameen Telecom in the Labor Court, alleging the following:
- Permanent employment of workers and employees has not been ensured upon the completion of the probationary period, violating Section 8(7) of the Bangladesh Labor Law.
- Annual leave with or without pay in lieu of leave has not been granted to workers and employees, contravening Section 117 of the Bangladesh Labor Law.
- The Labor Welfare Foundation Act of 2006 has not been followed, as the company has not contributed 5% of profits to workers’ welfare and has not established a participatory fund for labor welfare.
From 1997 to 2022, a total of BDT 977 billion has been transferred to the accounts of Yunus and his affiliated organizations from the company’s operational council. An investigation is ongoing regarding an allegation of money laundering involving approximately BDT 300 billion by Grameen Telecom. Furthermore, the company’s chairman and Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, along with 13 others, face charges of embezzlement of BDT 250,227,806 from the Welfare Fund for the assimilation of 25 crore 22 lac 780 taka.
Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of all this establishment, cannot rise above the law and justice because no one is above the law. In the ongoing legal drama, Grameen Telecom’s scrutiny acts as a clear reminder that accountability, transparency, and justice must prevail, surpassing individual legacies and organizational affiliations.