Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, was appointed the 22nd chief justice of the country yesterday, superseding Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, who had been discharging duties of the chief justice for the last four months.
President M Abdul Hamid made the appointment in the afternoon in line with article 95(1) of the constitution as the post had remained vacant for about three months after Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha stepped down as the chief justice on November 10 last year.
Later in the day, Justice Wahhab resigned as an apex court judge. He was the senior most judge of the Appellate Division and due to retire on November 10 this year.
On the other hand, Justice Mahmud will retire on December 30, 2021. Both the judges were elevated to the Appellate Division from the High Court Division on February 23, 2011.
Yesterday evening, Justice Wahhab tendered his resignation to the president through one of his office staff, and an official concerned at the Bangabhaban received the resignation letter, a source close to his family told this correspondent.
But this newspaper could not verify it with the Bangabhaban immediately.
Citing from the resignation letter, the source said Justice Wahhab called it quits for “unavoidable personal reason”.
He had been performing functions of the chief justice since October 3 last year when Justice Sinha went on leave on health grounds.
The appointment of Justice Mahmud will come into effect after he takes oath today evening.
President Abdul Hamid will administer the oath to the new chief justice around 7:00pm today at the Bangabhaban, Joynal Abedin, press secretary to the president, told The Daily Star yesterday afternoon.
The law ministry yesterday published a gazette notification on the appointment.
Contacted, Law Minister Anisul Huq told this correspondent that the president appointed Justice Mahmud as the new chief justice and he has the sole authority to make appointment to the post as per the constitution.
Asked why Justice Wahhab was not appointed chief justice though he is the senior most judge of the Appellate Division, the law minister said such a question should not be raised as it's the president's jurisdiction.
“I can't tell you why Justice Wahhab was not appointed chief justice and why the appointment of the new chief justice was delayed because the matter is president's jurisdiction,” Anisul Huq added.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam welcomed the appointment of the new chief justice.
“Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain is a very prudent judge and a socially conscious person. He has delivered a number of good judgments in his career. I hope Justice Mahmud will take the judiciary to a new height through his competent leadership,” he said.
The attorney general added he will give felicitation to the new chief justice tomorrow morning.
In an instant reaction, Supreme Court Bar Association President and BNP leader advocate Zainul Abedin said deadlock was created as the post of the chief justice remained vacant for long.
Now this crisis is going to be resolved, he told The Daily Star.
Zainul mentioned that they will take decision about Justice Mahmud's felicitation at a meeting of the SCBA executive committee on Sunday.
Replying to a question, the lawyer said that seniority was disregarded in appointment of chief justice on several occasions in the past.
Six other apex court judges -- Justice KM Hasan, Justice Syed JR Mudassir Husain, Justice MM Ruhul Amin, Justice Md Tafazzul Islam, Justice ABM Khairul Haque and Justice Md Muzammel Hossain -- were appointed chief justice reportedly in violation of seniority of their colleagues.
Justice KM Hasan and Justice Syed JR Mudassir Husain were appointed superseding Justice Md Ruhul Amin and Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim in 2003 and 2004, during the tenure of BNP government, according to media reports.
Justice MM Ruhul Amin and Justice Tafazzul Islam were appointed chief justice ignoring seniority of Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim in 2008 and 2009 during the military-backed caretaker regime and the Awami League government tenure respectively.
Justice MA Matin and Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman were passed over for the promotion when Justice Khairul Haque became chief justice in 2010.
Justice Muzammel Hossain was made chief justice superseding Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman in 2011, said advocate Khurshid Alam Khan, a SC lawyer and editor of Dhaka Law Reports.
The then president Zillur Rahman on May 11, 2011 appointed Justice Muzammel as the 20th chief justice of the country.
The next day, Justice Nayeem submitted his resignation letter to the president through the SC Registrar's Office. He, however, did not mention any specific reason.
This was the first incident of a senior judge stepping down in protest against being passed over for the promotion to chief justice, said the SCBA leader Zainul.
THE NEW CJ
Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain was one of the members of the apex court bench which scrapped the 16th constitutional amendment that empowered parliament to remove the SC judges for incapacity or misconduct.
He was also on the bench that declared illegal the 13th amendment, a provision which mandated an elected government to transfer power to an unelected non-partisan caretaker administration to oversee a new parliamentary election on completion of its term.
Born in Comilla in 1954, Justice Mahmud was enrolled as an advocate of the District Court and the High Court Division of Supreme Court in 1981 and 1983.
He also acted as deputy attorney general from December 1999 till his elevation as an additional judge to the High Court in February 2001.
He was elevated as a judge of the HC division in 2003, according to the SC website.