The ruling Awami League thinks Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has stepped down considering his health while its archrival BNP has alleged that he was forced to resign.
The CJ went on leave on health grounds on October 3 and left for Australia nine days later. He sent his resignation letter to the Bangabhaban from abroad yesterday, a day after his 39-day leave expired.
AL presidium member Abdul Matin Khasru said the BNP's allegation was “hypothetical” as the resignation was the CJ's personal decision.
“The country's judiciary and judges are fully independent. There was no pressure on the chief justice from the government over the resignation,” Khasru, also a former law minister, told The Daily Star.
“The chief justice was scheduled to go into retirement on January 31 next year. We don't know why he stepped down before completing his tenure. It's absolutely his own decision and he is the right person to answer why he quit.”
AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the CJ might have resigned considering his health.
About the BNP's allegation, the AL leader said the party was “doing politics” over the resignation. “Leaders of BNP are resorting to falsehood and it is nothing new. The BNP's politics is based on falsehood. I would like to request BNP leaders not to do politics over this issue.”
Meanwhile, BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed yesterday said the CJ's resignation was a disgraceful incident for the judiciary and the court's independence.
He was speaking at a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club, reports UNB.
Jatiyatabadi Sangskritik Dal hosted the programme, marking the “National Revolution and Solidarity Day”.
Moudud, also a former law minister, said the government “took action against the chief justice as the 16th amendment verdict went against it”.
“Being aggrieved by the apex court's verdict, they did it. The government could have filed a review petition against the verdict, but they harmed the judiciary by carrying out personal attacks against Justice Sinha in a coordinated way,” he added.
Another BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said, “We also heard that he [chief justice] went to Singapore for returning home, but he couldn't. We're very concerned about the matter.”
He said the government was “scared that the CJ might declare elections of 154 MPs elected unopposed illegal. And that's why the CJ was forced to quit”.
SC UNDER GOVT CONTROL: SCBA
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Zainul Abedin yesterday said the CJ's post fell vacant following the resignation of Justice Sinha.
“Such a vacuum in the chief justice's post had never been created in the past,” he said at a press conference at the SCBA president's office in the afternoon.
Zainul, also a BNP leader, said, “Justice Sinha on several occasions had observed that the government had brought the lower courts under its control. His observation has been proved to be true following today's incident [of his resignation]. The government has taken the country's highest court under its control.”
He said the CJ had to “quit amid many allegations” following the Supreme Court verdict in the 16th amendment case and he was “forced to resign”.
“We the lawyers have confusion about who is going to be the next chief justice in such a situation, although Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, the senior most judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, is carrying out the duties of the chief justice,” he said.
BNP'S ALLEGATIONS ‘UNREALISTIC'
Addressing a press briefing at his Gulshan home yesterday, Law Minister Anisul Huq said Justice Sinha went abroad and sent his resignation letter from there.
About BNP's allegation that the government forced the CJ to quit, the minister said those who want to fish in troubled waters were brining such allegations.
“I will just tell them that waters are very transparent and there is no scope for catching fish there.
“The allegation against the government of forcing him [Justice Sinha] to step down is unrealistic.”
Anisul also said he was stunned as CJ had said he was not sick although he took leave on health grounds.