News Analysis: Settling an old score?
12:00 AM, August 31, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:45 AM, August 31, 2017

News Analysis: Settling an old score?

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Retired Justice Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik has been an old and bitter critique of Chief Justice (CJ) Surendra Kumar Sinha since his disagreement centring his retirement.

He has once again launched a vitriolic attack on Justice Sinha taking advantage of the ruling party's anger regarding the CJ's judgement on the constitutional 16th amendment. 

Here are some examples of his comments on the CJ.

On last Saturday at a programme, Justice Manik wondered whether CJ Sinha had indeed written the 16th amendment verdict.

"He had taken only 25 days to write 400 pages, it's impossible. The verdict was not written by him at all," he asserted. 

"If you go through the verdict, you will find words that have been never used in verdicts written by him. It's clear that someone else -- probably some Pakistani ISI (agents) -- wrote it," alleged Justice Manik.

"He [CJ Sinha] has violated the constitution, his oath and has no right to remain in office. You will not only resign, but leave this country. You have no right to live here as you do not recognize Bangabandhu's leadership," said an angry Justice Manik.

On Tuesday at a programme, he alleged that the verdict was prepared before. "It is impossible to write     this verdict in such short period. Vested quarter worked behind this," he said. 

On the channel News24 talk show on August 18, he also accused the chief justice of undermining Bangabandhu. "The most objectionable remarks [of CJ] that the country has not been liberated under one person's leadership. It is a very audacious remark," commented Justice Manik, a complete distortion of what the CJ wrote in the verdict. 

In an interview with daily Samakal published on August 12, he alleged that the chief justice violated the constitution by denying the leadership of Bangabandhu in the country's Liberation War. The CJ never did so.

"It's a hotchpotch judgement," he said in a talk show on Channel-I on August 18.

During a talk show on television channel '71' on August 10, Justice Manik said the observations made by the CJ in the verdict are "irrelevant" to the case. He termed the observations as "satire" and "peculiar story."

Justice Manik's anger at the chief justice is nothing new.  He also tried to brand the chief justice as "Razakar" in last two years by twisting the CJ's remarks.

On August 18, on the News24 talk show Justice Manik said: "he [Justice Sinha] himself said that he was a member of Peace Committee. Being a member of the Peace Committee, he helped Pakistani occupational forces. This should be investigated." 

In a talk show on DBC channel on March 15 this year, he also described Justice Sinha "a self-proclaimed Razakar and anti-liberation element." 

This was a complete distortion of Justice Sinha's statement about his role in 1971.

On September 10 of 2014, during the hearing in war criminal Kamaruzzaman appeals, the defence lawyer argued how a freedom fighter could take shelter in the home of a Peace Committee member.

In response, Justice Sinha, who was presiding over a four-member Appellate Division bench, said: "It may happen. There was a situation during the war when in every family if one was an Awami League supporter, another was pro-Pakistani. I myself was a member of the Peace Committee."

Justice Sinha clarified: "I used to accompany the Pakistani army personnel during the day time, but at night I passed down information to the freedom fighters."

Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, who was a member of the four-member bench, instantly said: "By enlisting as Razakars, many people gave their arms to the freedom fighters."

But whenever Justice Manik has spoken about Justice Sinha's role in 1971, he spoke half-truths. He intentionally refrained from speaking about Justice Sinha's role on how he helped freedom fighters. 

In past, Justice Manik had demanded the CJ's resignation in public. He had even sent a letter to the president requesting him to remove Justice Sinha from the office of CJ on charge of "violation of the constitution."

ARE JUSTICE MANIK'S STATEMENTS BASED ON FACTS? 

To answer this question we have to recall the circumstances of Justice Manik's retirement. 

He was scheduled to go into retirement on October 1, 2015 as a judge of the Appellate Division. He was not included in any bench by CJ Sinha during the last few weeks of his term. According to the CJ this exclusive time was given him to complete 65 judgements and orders that were pending with him.

On August 25, in a letter to him, the CJ asked him to complete writing the pending judgements before taking retirement benefits.

On August 31, Justice Manik sent a letter to the chief justice questioning the validity of his letter.

After that the CJ, on September 2, sent another letter insisting that Justice Manik finished the judgements and orders pending with him before retirement.

In response, Justice Manik on September 8 in another letter said that the letter sent to him by the CJ was “tantamount to violation of constitutional oath”.

A furious Justice Manik, on September 13, 2015, took the unprecedented step, perhaps for the first time in Bangladesh, of sending a letter to President Abdul Hamid seeking the CJ's removal on charge of "violation of the constitution."

In the letter, he alleged that the CJ showed "bias" against him by not including him in any Bench since September 8.

He said, “As per Article 107(3) of the constitution, the chief justice forms benches of the judges. But, the constitution did not empower the chief justice to keep any sitting judge out of bench.”

The letter also reads: “The chief justice kept me out of bench at a time when some cases were partly heard before my court and some cases were put on cause list for hearing this week.”

He also alleged, “I have been subjected to discriminatory behaviour and vengeful attitude by the chief justice.”

“Following the discriminatory attitude towards me, it is clear that the honourable chief justice is a person, who is unable to deliver justice impartially. Such unjust and personal vindictive decision is bound to hamper the freedom of other judges in delivering justice independently,” reads Justice Manik's letter.

“I am a colleague of Chief Justice Sinha. The decision of the chief justice against me shows that he is not able to deliver justice staying above aversion and devotion,” the letter added.

His move drew criticism as he was accused by many senior lawyers for acting out of personal vengeance.

After over five months of his retirement on February 8, 2016, he submitted 65 judgments and orders he finished after retirement as an Appellate Division judge.

"JUSTICE MANIK VIOLATED CONSTITUTION"

Interestingly enough, when Justice Manik was a High Court judge in 2012, he himself was accused by the Speaker and parliamentarians of violating the Constitution for his derogatory remarks against the then Speaker Abdul Hamid.

During the hearing of a case in 2012, he had accused then Speaker Hamid, now the President, of committing an offence tantamount to sedition. He accused Hamid of making a comment in the House on a High Court order. Justice Manik also said the Speaker was completely ignorant of the apex court and of the constitution.

MPs reacted sharply and blasted Justice Manik. In an unscheduled discussion in the parliament on June 5, 2012, they accused him of violating the constitution for making "derogatory remarks" about the Speaker.

Participating in the discussion, senior Awami League lawmaker Tofail Ahmed, now commerce minister, said, “I was surprised to see how Justice Manik spoke against the Speaker and accused him of sedition. We are at a loss for words to censure him.”

The same judge, Tofail, added, had once punished a simple traffic police officer for failing to salute him on the road.

Workers Party MP Rashed Khan Menon, now civil aviation minister, said Justice Manik's remarks were a clear violation of Article 78 of the constitution. “We can in no way accept such behaviour.”

During this discussion treasury bench MPs chanted “shame” “shame” when their fellow lawmakers were blasting Justice Manik over his remarks about the Speaker.

On June 18, then Speaker Abdul Hamid came up with a ruling on the discussion saying Justice Manik had violated the constitution by making derogatory remarks about the parliament and the Speaker.

“I doubt if a conscientious person can make remarks like the ones an honourable High Court judge [Justice Manik] has made about parliament and me by violating Article 78 (1) of the constitution,” Hamid said.

Article 78 (1) of the constitution says the validity of the proceedings in parliament shall not be questioned in any court.

Putting the onus on the then chief justice, the Speaker said, “We will support whatever steps the chief justice may take with regard to such behaviour by a court. Hopefully, that will prevent a recurrence of such incidents.”

The then chief justice, Muzammel Hossain, did not take any action as expected by the Speaker.

Justice Manik was appointed by the government as a judge to the Appellate Division in March 2013.

Facts presented above clearly show the motivation behind Justice Manik's bitter attack on the chief justice. He appears to be taking advantage of the ruling party's umbrage regarding the annulment of the 16th amendment and denigrating the CJ to settle his old score. An institution is being denigrated for personal vengeance.

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