Qamrul asked to give fresh explanation
The Supreme Court yesterday ordered Food Minister Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque to reappear before it on March 27 over a contempt rule against them.
The rule was issued for their “contemptuous” remarks about Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha in relation to the war crimes case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali.
The SC rejected Qamrul's explanation in response to the rule because it was not “written properly,” and ordered him to submit a fresh reply by March 27.
The two ministers appeared before the seven-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by the chief justice at 9:00am yesterday as per its previous order, and offered unconditional apologies for their comments.
The court accepted the explanation of Mozammel.
In his explanation, Qamrul said he was a freedom fighter and had witnessed many brave sons and daughters of this soil being killed by Rajakar, Al-Badr, Al Shams men in connivance with the Pakistan army in 1971. This memory made him very emotional that he found very difficult to control.
He also expressed deep regret and remorse for his statements and comments and said he would never make such or similar comments in future.
Early this month, the two ministers came down hard on the chief justice for two days in a row, after the CJ expressed dissatisfaction over “poor performance” of the prosecutors and investigators of the war crimes tribunal in dealing with the war crimes case against Quasem.
Qumrul demanded formation of a new bench to rehear the case, excluding the CJ. He also wanted the attorney general out of the hearing. Mozammel went on to say the chief justice should not be delivering the verdict in Quasem's case.
The verdict in Quasem's case was pending when they made the comments and the SC on March 8 sentenced the Jamaat leader to death.
On the same day, a nine-member apex court bench issued the contempt rule on the two ministers and asked them to explain by March 14 their “derogatory and highly contemptuous statements”. It also ordered them to appear before it on March 15.
During yesterday's proceedings, the SC criticised both the ministers, saying they not only undermined the chief justice but trampled the entire judiciary by their comments.
The two ministers made arrogant comments and scandalised the chief justice and the judiciary, Sinha said, adding that he was doubtful whether they made such comments to influence the judgment on Quasem's appeal.
Interference in the administration of justice is a criminal contempt and committing contempt is a criminal offence like a robbery. And all these issues have been discussed in the verdict in the contempt case against daily Janakantha, he said.
Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, the senior most judge of the SC bench after the CJ, said the chief justice alone could not deliver a judgment even if he wished to.
If the chief justice withdraws himself from war crimes cases, the entire trial proceeding would be hampered, said Justice Sinha, adding that judges of the top court gave their decisions in many war crimes cases.
The law will take its own course however powerful one is and the court will not hesitate to pass any order for the protection of the constitution, he noted.
Justice Sinha told Qamrul's lawyer Abdul Baset Mazumder that the minister confessed to his guilt, but confessing to the guilt by a minister and a reporter or an ordinary citizen was not the same.
The CJ sought to know from the counsel what should be the consequences of breaking the oath of office of protecting the constitution.
He also advised the lawyer not to appear before the court if he could not give protection to his client.
The CJ said he was in Nepal when the two ministers made the comments. He then communicated with the law minister through the high commission office to ask the two ministers to apologise unconditionally through holding a press conference. He also requested the law minister to raise the issue in the cabinet meeting.
The prime minister has reportedly scolded the two ministers in a cabinet meeting, but it is not enough as the ministers did not apologise through a press conference, said the CJ.
“The court is an organ of the constitution, not of the government, and there should be mutual respects between the judiciary and the government.”
Justice Sinha said a prosecutor has reportedly showed a judgment to the chairman of the Law Commission to examine whether the judgment was right.
“Where and at which level have you brought the Supreme Court?” he asked.
The chief justice said they had been patient enough, although the ministers criticised the judiciary even at TV talk shows, but they did not want to tolerate such criticisms.