Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent critical remarks about a High Court bench appear to go against the Supreme Court's expectation that the premier shall be more circumspect and respectful in making any statement or comment on the judiciary or the judges or court in future.
The apex court came up with the strong desire more than 14 years ago while it disposed of twice separate contempt petitions filed against Hasina when she was prime minister in her first term.
The first contempt petition was filed against then premier Hasina with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in early 1999 in connection with her critical remarks about "granting of en masse bail" by the High Court Division.
The court asked the attorney general to submit a statement from the prime minister on her alleged remarks. The attorney general accordingly submitted a statement on February 17, 1999 to the Appellate Division explaining her remarks.
In the statement it was stated that her remarks were not intended to lower the dignity of the court or to interfere with the administration of the justice.
A full bench of the Appellate Division accepted the explanation of the premier and disposed of the contempt petition.
But the apex court observed that it expected more circumspection, understanding, discretion and judgement on the part of the prime minister because of the high office she holds in making off-hand remarks in respect of constitutional functionaries which have been alleged to be contumacious.
The story, however, did not end here.
After one and a half years, three contempt petitions were filed against then premier Hasina with the High Court Division for her remarks about granting of bail by the court.
Hasina, in an interview with BBC Bangla service on July 26, 2000, commented on the accountability of judges and lawyers for granting bail to criminals. She allegedly remarked that after obtaining bail from the courts, criminals further commit crimes and therefore, both the lawyers and judges should be accountable respectively for seeking and granting bail.
A High Court Division bench heard the three contempt petitions together and passed its judgement on October 24, 2000. It held views and made observations similar to the Appellate Division's.
"We are disposing of these three applications together in a similar manner and language with a note of desire that the Hon'ble Prime Minister shall be more careful and respectful in making any statement or comment with regard to the Judiciary or the judges or the Court of Bangladesh in future," the HC bench said.
After more than 14 years, Hasina has made some critical remarks against the HC for its order for arrest of the three Rab officials forced into retirement for alleged involvement in the abduction and killing of seven people in Narayanganj. Her Saturday's remarks appear a blow to the Supreme Court's expectation.
"When we were still investigating the matter … and before that investigation was complete … you tell us how come a High Court bench orders arrest of the three [Rab officers]?" she said in response to journalists' queries in a press conference.
Hasina continued, "When we struggle to take one step, some of them there take two/four steps and create such a situation that does not allow conducting a probe properly. It is a problem. I know my words are getting a bit harsh … but what is real and true must be told."
Two days after the PM's remarks, Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul went a step further and cautioned against "judicial anarchy" and said judicial activism should not cross its boundary.
This has become a much discussed issue.
A Supreme Court lawyer on Sunday brought to the notice of the High Court the premier's comment.
Advocate Tamzida Mila placed before the court a report published in The Daily Star in this regard.
On receiving the report, the HC bench of Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar said they would go through it later.