Law minister bins 'speculations'
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) yesterday alleged that Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha was forced to take a month's leave, a claim both the law minister and the attorney general termed baseless.
They said the CJ took the leave due to illness.
Mahbubey Alam, the AG, also dismissed as "not true" journalists' suggestions that Justice Sinha was put under house arrest.
According to him, the SCBA was raising the allegations to tarnish the image of the judiciary.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said those who were "speculating" that the government put pressure on the CJ to go on leave were in fact hatching "some kind of conspiracy" to thwart the continuation of democracy.
"They have started crying presuming that they may fail in their attempt," he said.
Earlier in the day, the SCBA, which is dominated by pro-BNP lawyers, held an emergency meeting at its conference room.
After the meeting, its president Zainul Abedin said, "The Supreme Court Bar Association thinks tremendous pressure was put on him [CJ] so that he goes on one month's leave.
"You all know, the nation and people of the world know that a political party and the government was pressurising him after a judgment. We believe that he was sent on leave yesterday [Tuesday] as part of such pressure. He was forced to go on leave."
Justice Sinha recently faced sharp criticisms from senior ministers and Awami League leaders over the 16th amendment verdict. Some of them even demanded his resignation, accusing him of undermining parliament and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The apex court on August 1 released the full text of its verdict in the 16th amendment case, scrapping the constitutional amendment that had empowered parliament to remove SC judges for misconduct or incapacity.
Some pro-AL organisations, including Bangabandhu Awami Ainjibi Parishad, held protest programmes against the CJ. Parishad leaders threatened to launch a tougher agitation if the CJ did not step down.
The Jatiya Sangsad on September 13 passed a resolution calling for legal steps to nullify the SC verdict. The law minister on several occasions said the government would seek review of the judgment.
Yesterday afternoon, the SCAB held another meeting with senior lawyers and its former presidents and secretaries, and expressed grave concern over the sudden leave of the chief justice.
"It is an unexpected leave. We are shocked," said Zainul Abedin, also a vice-chairman of BNP.
He said several senior SC lawyers tried to meet the CJ but failed, which was a matter of concern.
"Such an incident is unfortunate for the judiciary. It will not bring any good for anyone, even for the government. People want to know what has happened and the main cause behind the leave," Zainul said.
He added they would hold another meeting today and determine the next course of action over the issue. They will also try to meet president and the CJ.
Senior lawyers Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, AJ Mohammad Ali, Aminul Haque, Subrata Chowdhury, Moinul Hossain, MK Rahman, Jamir Uddin Sircar (ex-Speaker), former justice Nazrul Islam Chowdhury, among others, attended the meeting.
SCBA ALLEGATIONS BASELESS: AG
Mahbubey Alam refuted SCBA's allegations and said the Association was "tarnishing the image of the judiciary as it [the SCBA] was controlled by a particular political party".
"The chief justice went on leave and the law minister has already talked about the reason. We know that he is a cancer patient and had been under treatment in the past. It's completely his personal matter.... The allegations are baseless," he told reporters at his office.
He also said the notion that the CJ was under house arrest was "totally baseless."
Replying to a question, Mahbubey Alam said he had no contact with the CJ since his return on September 23 after visiting Canada and Japan.
Asked about the CJ's whereabouts, the country's top law officer said, "I don't know...I'm not supposed to know that."
Replying to another question, he said he would try to meet the CJ if the latter were in the country.
NO GOVT PRESSURE: LAW MINISTER
The law minister claimed the government did not put any pressure on Justice Sinha for taking leave.
"Those who are talking about this have no evidence. I don't find any reason to respond to such useless comments," he told reporters at his office yesterday.
He also ruled out that there was any link between the CJ's leave, the 16th amendment verdict and the government move for legal steps to nullify the SC verdict.
With reference to the CJ's leave application, Anisul Huq said the CJ mentioned that he had been suffering from cancer and other diseases.
"That's why he has mentioned [in the letter] that he needs more rest. He has taken one month's leave to take rest," he said.
The minister hoped that CJ would rejoin work after the leave.