Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman, a senior judge of the Supreme Court Appellate Division, resigned yesterday apparently in protest against his being passed over twice for promotion to chief justice.
Justice Nayeem submitted the resignation letter to the president through the SC registrar's office yesterday morning, SC sources said. He has not mentioned any specific reason for his resignation.
He also refused to talk to the reporters, when approached at his SC chamber yesterday.
President Zillur Rahman on May 11 appointed Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, a senior Appellate Division judge but junior to Justice Nayeem, as the 20th chief justice of the country.
The first time Justice Nayeem's seniority was ignored was in appointment of outgoing Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque in September last year.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), dominated by pro-BNP lawyers, at an urgent general meeting yesterday strongly protested the appointment of the new chief justice, and decided not to offer felicitations to him.
SCBA President Khandker Mahbub Hossain told the meeting that they will, however, accord farewell to Justice Khairul Haque.
Some senior counsels yesterday told The Daily Star that this is the first time in the history of judiciary that an SC judge resigned in protest against violation of seniority in appointment of chief justice.
Senior jurist barrister Rafique-ul Huq, after a meeting with Justice Abu Nayeem at his SC chamber, told The Daily Star that he [Nayeem] stepped down as he was passed over twice in appointment of chief justice.
He said although Justice Shah Abu Nayeem is younger brother of BNP leader Brig (retd) ASM Hannan Shah, the government could have appointed him as chief justice.
There is no possibility of his being the chief of the next caretaker government following the SC verdict on 13th amendment to the constitution, he added.
Rafique-ul Huq said the SC in that verdict opined for excluding judges from the caretaker government.
Eminent jurist barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud and Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star that a number of SC judges were passed over in the past, but none of them protested.
The president of the republic appointed the new chief justice as per constitutional provisions and there is no violation of law in the appointment, Rokanuddin Mahmud said.
The attorney general said Justice Shah Abu Nayeem has created a political issue for pro-BNP lawyers by resigning from the office.
Justice Shah Abu Nayeem did not take part in the judicial work for over seven months, although the SC has given historical verdicts in a number of cases in this period, he added.
On April 25, Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque in a letter termed Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman's keeping himself away from judicial work is seriously contemptuous of the chief justice, sources said.
On April 20, Justice Shah Abu Nayeem in a letter to the chief justice said he was reluctant to sit in the bench presided by Justice Khairul on principle, since he was senior to the chief justice, sources said.