CJ under fire at JS

Resolution passed seeking legal steps to scrap some SC observations in 16th amendment verdict
Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban
Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban. File photo

The Jatiya Sangsad last night unanimously passed a resolution for taking “proper” legal steps towards expunction of the chief justice's “unconstitutional, objectionable and irrelevant” observations in the Supreme Court verdict in the 16th amendment case.

The resolution followed more than a dozen lawmakers' scathing attack on Chief Justice SK Sinha for some of his observations.

Placed by Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal lawmaker Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal, the resolution was passed by a voice vote amid thumping of desks by the treasury bench, the opposition and independent lawmakers.

Taking part in the discussion on the resolution, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “In the verdict, the chief justice has echoed the remarks that BNP-Jamaat alliance and the anti-liberation elements used to make about the Father of the Nation [Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman].”

In her 30-minute speech, the leader of the House pointed out that the chief justice made contradictory remarks in his observations.

“A question has arisen who has drafted the verdict and from where,” Hasina said.

“By making such remarks, the chief justice has not only made himself controversial, but also made democracy and parliament questionable. What is his motive?,” she asked.

Noting that parliament is sovereign and people are the source of all power, the PM said the House is comprised of lawmakers elected by the people.

“Therefore, the Supreme Court cannot talk against parliament. It will give explanation if anyone files any appeal with it. It cannot amend the constitution or formulate any law. The constitution has not given it that power.”

Hasina also said the SC verdict scrapping parliament's power to impeach SC judges was not acceptable to anyone.

She noted that all must be held accountable for their work.

“We are accountable to the people … The judiciary must have accountability to parliament.”

The premier strongly criticised the CJ for what she said was questioning the role of Bangabandhu during the 1971 Liberation War.

“The court has declared martial law ordinances illegal. Then how the Supreme Judicial Council, formed through a martial law ordinance, can remain valid?” she questioned.

The SC on July 3 upheld the annulment of the 16th amendment to the constitution that had empowered parliament to impeach SC judges for misconduct or incapacity.

In May last year, the High Court Division of the SC in its judgment ruled that the 16th amendment was illegal and unconstitutional. It said the amendment went against the principles of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

In September 2014, parliament passed the 16th amendment, which abolished the chief justice-led Supreme Judicial Council and restored the authority of parliament to remove SC judges.

Some observations in the SC verdict drew harsh criticism from leaders of the ruling Awami League. Some of them even called for resignation of the chief justice.

Participating in the marathon discussion yesterday, a number of lawmakers came down heavily on SK Sinha for some of his observations in the verdict. Terming him “corrupt”, some of them even launched personal attacks on him. 

Several MPs alleged that the CJ violated the constitution and breached his oath by making comments against parliament and lawmakers.

They further claimed that the CJ was “engaged in anti-state activities” in a bid to bring “anti-democratic forces” to state power.

Citing examples of developed and democratic countries including the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and India, the lawmakers argued that it is better, more acceptable and democratic to empower parliament, instead of Supreme Judicial Council, to impeach SC judges.

The MPs also said the Supreme Judicial Council didn't take action against any judge on the charge of corruption or misconduct in the last 40 years.

In his speech, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government was already working for expunction of “the unconstitutional, objectionable and irrelevant” observations.

“I want to say that this judgment will not go without a final legal challenge,” he said.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said, “Even the president, the prime minister and the Speaker can be impeached by parliament. Then why they [SC judges] cannot be impeached by parliament?”

Criticising the CJ for “terming lawmakers immature”, the Awami League lawmaker said, “When we formulated the constitution, many of the present judges were school-goers.”

“Today they [judges] have become mature and we have become immature!”

Pointing to the CJ's remarks on parliament and different government organisations, Tofail said, “Does he want to say that Bangladesh is a dysfunctional country? No, Bangladesh is heading towards development under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”

Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque alleged that the CJ violated his oath and the constitution

“There is proof of corruption against him [the CJ]. Other distinguished judges are ashamed of him. Therefore he cannot carry on his job anymore.”

Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon said the verdict is biased and motivated.

He further said some of the CJ's observations in the judgment are illogical.

Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Mia said the CJ dishonoured lawmakers by making the comment that “parliament is dysfunctional and lawmakers are incompetent”.

Alleging that the CJ is engaged in anti-state activities, AL lawmaker Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim urged the law minister to file a sedition case against SK Sinha.

Selim, also AL presidium member, further said the CJ should go to Pakistan and live there as he has “affection” for the country. 

Claiming that the CJ has turned the judiciary into a “political platform”, Selim said, “If you [CJ] want to join politics, then resign your post and contest elections.”

“You will have to revoke the verdict. Otherwise, you can wait and see the steps to be taken against you,” he added. 

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said the chief justice doesn't like Bangladesh, but he was happy when he was made the country's top judge.

“He is a person who cannot differentiate between the truth and false. He has no morality.”

Opposition Leader Raushan Ershad, Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud, State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu and AL lawmaker Dipu Moni, among others, participated in the discussion.


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