Three ministers and several treasury and opposition bench MPs yesterday lambasted a High Court verdict that scrapped the 16th amendment to the constitution.
The amendment passed in 2014 empowered parliament to impeach Supreme Court judges for “incapacity or misconduct”.
Law Minister Anisul Huq, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu told the House that the HC verdict was illegal, unconstitutional and beyond the HC jurisdiction.
Describing the verdict as “a conspiracy against democracy and sovereign parliament,” the ministers and lawmakers warned they would not tolerate any such plots.
They added the 16th amendment could not be illegal or contradictory to the constitution as the same provision was mentioned in the original constitution of 1972.
The law minister said the government would appeal to the Supreme Court against the verdict on Sunday or Monday, saying he hoped the Appellate Division would scrap the HC judgment.
Opposition Jatiya Party MPs staged a protest when law minister was delivering his speech. They demanded that the government take a strong position against the HC verdict.
They also demanded that Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury issue a ruling on this matter asserting the sovereignty of the House and dignity of lawmakers.
JP MPs led by Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad staged a brief walkout in protest at a bill seeking to increase the salary and remuneration of Supreme Court judges.
The JP, which also shares cabinet posts, demanded that the law minister halt the bill until the issue of the HC verdict was settled. They returned to the House six minutes later and the bill was eventually placed.
Pandemonium broke out in the House as JP MPs shouted even as the law minister spoke. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was not present in the House at the time.
The law minister had to stop his speech twice amid the ruckus but later completed his statement after the Speaker intervened to calm the JP lawmakers.
“It is quite normal that the MPs will register their protests at the verdict. But I am telling you that this is not the final decision. We will appeal against the verdict,” he said.
Anisul insisted that the 16th amendment was not illegal as the HC declared in its verdict. “Therefore it [the verdict] is not maintainable.”
He claimed the government brought the amendment to give freedom and respect to the judiciary and the judges.
Tofail said the HC should not have given the verdict against the 16th amendment and hoped the government would get justice in the Appellate Division.
Hitting out at Dr Kamal Hossain, Tofail said the jurist, one of the writers of the country's original constitution, spoke against the 16th amendment during the hearing in the HC.
“The provision of impeachment of Supreme Court judges for incapacity or misconduct was there in the original constitution of 1972. But he [Kamal Hossain] has opposed the same provision mentioned in the 16th amendment,” Tofail said, adding that this was nothing but self-contradiction.
The original constitution Tofail referred to also had provisions for making a law for the appointment of the SC judges. But no government has made a law in this regard.
Pointing to a section of judges, Tofail said, “They could become judges because we are in power.”
State Minister and JP MP Chunnu sought to know if the House would run independently or as per the Supreme Court's instructions.
He also sought the Speaker's ruling in this regard.
AL MP Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim claimed there was a conspiracy behind the HC verdict.
He called on the government to investigate if the judges concerned joined hands with any evil forces to destroy the country's democracy and to make parliament nonfunctional.
He also urged the judges “not to do excesses” and hoped that the judges would “correct themselves”.
“Don't do excesses and don't undermine the sovereignty of parliament,” Selim said. “A judge must face trial like any other person if he commits any mistake. Are they above the law?”
JP MPs Fakhrul Imam, Kazi Feroz Rashid and Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal MP Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal also took part in the discussion.