IF my father, Mr. Justice Abdullah Jabir were alive today, he would have been 100 years old. I wonder if he were to be alive today, would he have celebrated turning 100 or would he have been in a condition to enjoy it given all the hazards we face as we age?
Justice Jabir, or “Judge Shahib,” as many called him, was a self-effacing man, with a passionate sense of loyalty to family and friends, who in turn reciprocated with devotion and respect that one can only dream of. His friends and admirers, and it was very difficult to distinguish the two since his family and friends turned into admirers, were plenty, thanks to his years of travel around the country in different official capacities, and his interest in sports, music, and other hobbies.
The accomplishments of Mr. Justice Jabir are documented in the annals of Bangladesh's judicial history. He started his legal career in the Bengal Judicial Service as a Munsif in Burdwan (West Bengal) and retired from government service as the chairman of the P.O. 9 Review Board under President Sayem in 1977. He was appointed a Justice of the East Pakistan High Court in December, 1968 and retired as a Judge of the Appellate Division of Bangladesh Supreme Court in July 1975.
During his tenure as District and Sessions Judge of Dinajpur and Bogra, he was nominated for elevation to the Bench of the East Pakistan High Court. The provincial law ministry forwarded the name of four short-listed jurists for the position to the Federal Ministry of Law in Islamabad in early 1968. Once the list was confirmed, the president would meet with them during his visit to Dhaka.
However, in September of that year, only two nominations were announced and Justice Jabir's was not one of them. Although at first, Justice Jabir was disappointed at not being elevated to the Bench, he did not speak publicly about it, nor did he display any emotions. He, in spite of the urgings of friends and relatives, did not start any “tadbir” (lobbying) for his case, or feel discouraged. He moved on, frequently stating that “it is Allah's wish” for him to not be on the list, even though he was approaching retirement age for civil servants.
He exhibited complete peace of mind, notwithstanding the fact that he did not have a house in his name, nor had he saved money for one, with the prospect of a small pension. But he was an upright man with a belief in his fate and the power of his creator to steer him in the right direction. “Things happen for a reason, and everything in due course.”
Finally, on December 15, Ahsanuddin Choudhury and Abdullah Jabir were nominated during Ayub Khan's final visit to East Pakistan. On the last day of the president's stay in Dhaka, Justice Jabir received a call from Justice Aminul Islam, Secretary of the Ministry of Law. Apparently, the president had commented while signing the order that he had never met this judge he was promoting and signing the papers for. Justice Islam placed the call and invited Justice Jabir to meet with the president on the afternoon of the day he was heading back to Islamabad. The meeting was very brief, and Justice Islam indicated that the order was already signed by the president.
Another illustration of Justice Jabir's commitment to service and selflessness came during the few months before his elevation to the High Court. He was working as Inspector General of Registration (IGR) of East Pakistan. He knew Mr. Justice Amin Ahmed from his days as Deputy Registrar of East Pakistan High Court. Justice Ahmed, who was aware of his skills as a writer and thinker, sought his assistance in writing a book. Justice Ahmed had been invited by Dhaka University to give the Kamini Kumar Dutta Memorial Law Lectures (KKDMLL), which would be printed in a book form. The title of the lecture was “Judicial Review of Administrative Actions in Pakistan.”
For more than six months, my father dedicated himself to the task -- with Justice Ahmed providing guidance -- and would spend ten hours a day reading the books, reports, and printed journals, and providing the narrative for the manuscript. It was a collaborative work that only these scholars could perform. Justice Jabir wrote the individual chapters in long-hand and Justice Ahmed had them typed. Justice Ahmed would periodically stop by, take the finished chapters, and bring them back after reviewing them. The lecture was very well received, and is still considered a major contribution to the history of Bangladesh judiciary practices.
After he retired from government service, Justice Jabir was active grading law papers for Dhaka University, mentoring future lawyers, and in assisting various mediation efforts for the government. He passed away on December 15, 1985.
The writer lives and works in Boston, USA.