Thursday, 14 November 2013
A Conversation With Sayed Ahmed Raza, My Friend From Bangladesh
My friend Sayed Ahmed Raza is a founding partner at Ahmed & Farooq LP, a leading law firm in Bangladesh. Raza, as we called him at the National Law School of India University, was a couple of years my junior and graduated from NLSIU in the year 2000. I haven’t seen Raza since 1998, the year I graduated, but we’ve always managed to keep in touch, thanks to emails, facebook and skype. Recently Raza conveyed some sound bytes to be posted on Winnowed.
Winnowed: Career-wise, what have you done since your graduation from NLSIU in 2000?
Raza: Immediately after I came back, I worked as the co-ordinator for a project run by the Bangladesh Bar Council called “Human Rights Lawyering for Young Lawyers.” It involved coordinating the activities of 78 local Bar Associations and travelling to all parts of my country. I thoroughly enjoyed the job, which lasted for a year. I then started practising in Dakha and did a mix of criminal and civil litigation. More of the former than the latter. In 2002, I went to Khartoum in Sudan to work for the United Nations Development Programme for Refugees. I was there for two and a half years, helping Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees who had escaped to Sudan to escape the turmoil in their own countries. On my return, I resumed my litigation practice. I co-founded Ahmed & Farooq LP in the year 2007. These days, I do some non-litigation work – drafting agreements etc., but my mainstay is still litigation and arbitration.
Winnowed: Can you please cite an interesting case you have been involved in?
Raza: Recently our Supreme Court awarded the death sentence to one Abdul Quader Molla for his role in the 1971 genocide. Prior to his conviction, Molla had filed a defamation claim against certain politicians for the statements they made against him. I defended two of those politicians, namely Ms. Syeda Sajeda Choudhury, the Deputy Leader of Parliament and Ms. Motia Chowdhury, a Minister, against those defamation claims.
Winnowed: What made you choose NLSIU?
Raza: I come from a family of lawyers. Both my grandfathers were lawyers and my father is a leading Senior Counsel in Dhaka as well as President of the Bongabandhu Angibi Parishad. NLSIU is rather well-known among the legal fraternity in Bangladesh – even in 1995 when it was relatively new and the only National Law School in India. Students from Bangladesh have traditionally gone to the UK for their legal studies. I decided to give NLSIU a shot, just to do something different.
Winnowed: Did you consider taking up a job in India after graduation?
Raza: No. I was always clear that I wanted to return to Dhaka and practice law here.
Winnowed: Was it difficult to qualify in Bangladesh with an Indian law degree?
Raza: Not for me. In Bangladesh, just as in India, only Bangladeshi citizens can become advocates. One needs to take an enrolment exam for this purpose. Actually two exams, one to qualify to practice in the lower courts and the second one, which can be taken only if an advocate has at least two years’ post qualification experience, to practice in the High Court and Supreme Court. Since I had an Indian degree, I applied to the Bar Council for my degree to be recognised, which it did without raising any issue, after which I could take the first enrolment exam. I did that immediately on my return.
Winnowed: Please name a few people who have a made a big difference to your life.
Raza: My father, Abdul Baset Majumdar has made the biggest difference to my life. He has been my role model ever since I can remember.
Winnowed: If you were to advice other Bangladeshi students who are considering an Indian law degree, what would you tell them?
Raza: I would say that a law degree from a leading National Law School in India would give every budding lawyer a head-start in terms of developing analytical skills and learning the fundamentals of law, which are common for all common-law countries.
Winnowed: What’s your happiest memory from your time in Bangalore?
Raza: I have very happy memories of my time in the Men’s Halls of Residence. Every day was a special day. I will never forget my mates from those wonderful days.
Winnowed: And your saddest or the most unhappy experience?
Raza: I don’t remember any.
Winnowed: Your family?
Raza: I have been blessed with two daughters, Rifah Shahana Majumder and Rameen Shahanna Majumder . My wife Shahana Rahmatullah Annie is very supportive.
Winnowed: What are your hobbies?
Raza: Music, movies and reading Bangla newspapers
Winnowed: One last question - What do you think can be done to improve Indo-Bangladeshi relations?
Raza: India has changed a lot since the time it helped us win independence. The middle-classes in India do not hate Bangladesh. The Indian judiciary believes in fair play. For example, in the case of The Chairman, Railway Board & Ors vs Mrs. Chandrima Das & Ors [January, 2000], the Indian Supreme Court awarded compensation to a Bangladeshi girl who was raped in the Howrah Railway station. However, we also have instances like the case of Felani Khatun where no action has been taken. One gets the feeling that the common man in India does not have much goodwill towards us. To some extent, it is the politicians’ job to educate the masses, but I also understand that it is not an easy task. In Bangladesh, there is a big split between moderates like me who want democracy and have good relations with India and the supporters of the fundamentalist Jamaat e Islami who want Shariah rule.