Some senior ministers yesterday expressed strong disagreement with the Supreme Court over the restoration of Supreme Judicial Council for removal of SC judges on grounds of gross misconduct or incapacity.
The SC in the full verdict in 16th constitutional amendment case said the provision of SJC has been reinstated following the cancellation of that amendment, which had empowered parliament to remove SC judges.
More than a dozen ministers, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, said the SJC cannot be restored automatically in any circumstances. They said parliament has to amend the constitution if the SJC is needed to be brought back, meeting sources said.
The Jatiya Sangsad in September 2014 passed 16th amendment abolishing the decades-old chief justice-led SJC.
The amendment was challenged with the High Court in November 2014. In May last year, the HC declared the amendment unconstitutional and void as it found the change went against the principles of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.
The government filed an appeal against the HC verdict in January this year. In July, the SC rejected the appeal and upheld the HC verdict.
In the full verdict released on Tuesday, the apex court said the independence of the judiciary was undermined and curtailed by making the judiciary "vulnerable to a process of removal of the judges by parliament".
The procedure entailed in the SJC is more in consonance with the spirit of the constitutional scheme, reads the verdict, adding that the provision of the SJC is not only in the interest of justice, but also for the independence of the judiciary.
The finance minister was the first to make comments questioning the SC's jurisdiction to declare the amendment illegal. His remarks on Friday that the Jatiya Sangsad would pass the amendment time and again drew criticism.
Five days after the release of the full verdict, the ministers at an unscheduled discussion lambasted some critical observations the apex court made about parliament, governance system and politics.
"The 16th amendment restored the provision of the original constitution. Question is whether the court can scrap any provision of the original constitution of 1972. We think the court does not have the jurisdiction to do so," State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu told The Daily Star, talking about the discussion.
The discussion began after Law Minister Anisul Huq briefed the cabinet members about the verdict.
He highlighted some issues which, in his view, were irrelevant to the case but were still brought up in the verdict, meeting sources said.
Those who took part in the hour-long discussion included Finance Minister Muhith, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud and Food Minister Qamrul Islam.
They claimed the court raised some "irrelevant issues" making the observations "unrealistic", "objectionable" and "irrational" and asked the law minister to take measures to have those expunged from the verdict.
The ministers also alleged that the chief justice made some "political statements" in the judgment.
Some of them recommended the government file a petition with the SC seeking a review of the verdict.
Law Minister Anisul Huq may hold a press conference on Thursday to express the government view over the 16th amendment judgment.
"The law minister will defend the government and highlight anomalies in the verdict," a senior minister told this newspaper, wishing not to be named.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was presiding over the meeting, heard the ministers and asked her cabinet colleagues to speak up on "irrelevant" issues and "anomalies" in the verdict. She also asked them to drum up public support against those issues.
The PM alleged that a section of media outlets, including The Daily Star and the Prothom Alo, were spreading propaganda against the government by highlighting some "absurd observations" made in the verdict. She urged the ministers to counter the propaganda, the sources said.
In the full judgment, the SC said, "Even after forty-six years of independence, we have not been able to institutionalise any public institutions. There are no checks and balances, there is no watchdog mechanism at work, and thus the people in the position are being indulged in abuse of power and showing audacity of freehand exercise of power.
"Human rights are at stake, corruption is rampant, parliament is dysfunctional, crores of people are deprived of basic healthcare and mismanagement in the administration is acute."
"In such a situation," reads the verdict, "the executive becomes arrogant and uncontrolled and the bureaucracy will never opt for efficiency."