Judges must sign verdicts promptly
The Supreme Court has ruled that its judges must sign the judgments or orders in normal cases promptly and within six months of delivering them in exceptional cases.
“A judge should dispose of promptly the business of the court, including avoiding inordinate delay in delivering judgments/orders … a judgment shall be signed not later than six months of the date of delivery of judgment in exceptional cases,” it observed.
The apex court made the observation in its judgment, which on September 16 last year upheld the 2004 dismissal of Syed Shahidur Rahman from the post of additional judge at the High Court.
The then president Iajuddin Ahmed ordered his removal as recommended by the Supreme Judicial Council for receiving Tk 50,000 in bribe to grant bail to an accused in a case under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act.
The SC recently released the full judgment in which it has made 39 other observations regarding the code of conduct of judges.
A four-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar said in the judgment: “Syed Shahidur Rahman has violated some of the above Code of Conduct and thereby he has committed gross misconduct.
“A judge should not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should not lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of others; nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
A Judge should not permit any member of his immediate family, such as spouse, son, daughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law or any other close relative, if a member of the Bar, to appear before him or even be associated in any manner with a cause to be dealt with by him.
No member of his family, who is a member of the Bar, shall be permitted to use the residence in which the Judge actually resides or other facilities for professional work, it said.
“A Judge should respect and comply with the constitution and law, and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary.
“A judge should be faithful to and maintain professional competence in the law, and should not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamour, or fear of criticism,” the verdict observed.
“A Judge should avoid public comment on the merit of a pending or impending Court case.
“A Judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
“A Judge shall disqualify to hear a matter/cause where he served as lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the Judge previously practised law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter, or the Judge or such lawyer has been a material witness.”
According to the verdict, a judge must not enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters or on matters that are pending or are likely to arise for judicial determination before him. A judge should not engage directly or indirectly in trade or business, either by himself or in association with any other person.
“A Judge must at all times be conscious that he is under the public gaze and there should be no act or omission by him which is unbecoming of his office and the public esteem in which that office is held.
“A Judge should not engage in any political activities, whatsoever in the country and abroad,” it noted.
Also, a Judge shall disclose his assets and liabilities, if asked for, by the chief justice.
“Justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen to be done. The behaviour and conduct of a member of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people's faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. Accordingly, any act of a judge, whether in official or personal capacity, which erodes the credibility of this perception, has to be avoided.”
Advocate Khurshid Alam Khan, an SC lawyer and editor of Dhaka Law Reports, told The Daily Star that at present there was no time limit for the SC judges for signing judgments and orders.
Therefore, the SC observations about the judge's code of conduct should be incorporated in its rules, he added.