Two ministers kept mum at cabinet meeting
Food Minister Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq, who have been convicted of contempt of court, have neither violated the constitution nor broken their oath of office by making comments on the chief justice, Law Minister Anisul Huq said yesterday.
“So there is no obligation for them to resign as there was no violation of the constitution,” he told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
The convicted ministers attended the cabinet meeting, but kept mum. However, their presence in the meeting indicates that they would continue to hold their portfolios, sources said.
On Sunday, the Supreme Court convicted and fined them Tk 50,000 each for committing contempt of court by making contemptuous and derogatory comments about Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.
Following the judgment, various quarters called on the two ministers to resign on moral grounds.
Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader said after yesterday's cabinet meeting that it was up to the ministers whether they would resign. “It's their personal matter as ethics vary from person to person.”
The issue was not discussed in the cabinet meeting or in any party forum, although the government high-ups did not take the two their comments on the chief justice positively, he added.
“The chief justice is an institution. No one should make any sweeping comments on an institution,” he said.
After the cabinet meeting, Qamrul and Mozammel declined to comment if they would quit.
Asked about his next course of action regarding the verdict, Qamrul said he would decide on it after talking to his lawyers. Mozammel said he would make the decision upon getting the copy of the verdict.
Qamrul and Mozammel made headlines early this month, by coming down hard on the chief justice for two days in a row. They criticised the CJ, after the country's top judge expressed dissatisfaction over the “poor performance” of the prosecutors and investigators of the war crimes tribunal in dealing with the war crimes case against Mir Quasem Ali.
Qamrul demanded formation of a new bench, keeping the chief justice out of it, for hearing Quasem's appeal afresh. Mozammel went on to say that the CJ should not be delivering the verdict in the appeal.
They offered conditional apologies for the comments, but the SC refused to accept those as their comments had maligned and undermined the office of the chief justice and interfered with the administration of justice. Also, there statements are highly derogatory and contemptuous.
A Supreme Court lawyer yesterday sent a legal notice to the cabinet secretary, requesting him to explain in 72 hours as to why holding of the post of minister by Qamrul and Mozammel should not be declared illegal.
In the notice, SM Zulfiqure Ali also urged the cabinet secretary to explain why using the national flag by the two ministers in their cars should not be treated as sedition.
The ministers have violated article 148 of the constitution by making contemptuous statements and it means that they broke their oath of office, he said.