SC slams on contempt | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 20, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 20, 2010

SC slams on contempt

Holds unprecedented trial to jail Mahmudur for 6 months; bureaucrat-turned-journalist Asaf-ud-Daula apologises to HC over contempt charge

The Supreme Court yesterday passed a verdict relating to protecting the image of the judiciary, sentencing Mahmudur Rahman, acting editor of daily Amar Desh, to six months in prison for gross contempt of court.
In a move termed unprecedented by eminent lawyers, the Appellate Division of the court, which deals with appeals, tried as they term for the first time and convicted Mahmudur for publishing a report on April 21 under the headline “Chamber manei sarkar pakkhe stay” [Chamber bench means stay order in favour of the government].
"This is the first time the Supreme Court convicted and sentenced anyone after it drew proceedings against a person for contempt of court," leading jurist Rokanuddin Mahmud told The Daily Star.
Mahmudur was also fined Tk 1 lakh, in default of which he will have to serve one more month in jail. He has been detained under eight cases filed in connection with alleged corruption, sedition, fraud and preventing police from doing their duty.
On the same day at the High Court during the hearing of another contempt of court case, bureaucrat-turned-columnist Mohammad Asaf-ud Daula received heavy flak from the judges for questioning the neutrality of the court.
Two Supreme Court lawyers--Riaz Uddin Khan and Mynul Hassan--on May 2 filed a petition against Mahmudur and four journalists of the daily Amar Desh for publishing the report. The court on June 2 issued a contempt of court rule against Mahmudur and the four.
The Appellate Division of the court yesterday sentenced Waliullah Noman, staff reporter of the daily, to one month's jail and fined him Tk 10,000 in this connection. He would have to serve an additional seven days in prison if he fails to pay the fine.
Publisher of the daily Hashmat Ali was also fined Tk 10,000 in default of which he has to stay in jail for seven days.
Deputy Editor Syed Abdal Ahmed and News Editor Mujtahid Faruqui were, however, cleared of the charge after they apologised to the court unconditionally.
In May 2002, the High Court had convicted Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, editor-in-chief of daily Manabzamin, to one month's imprisonment and fined him Tk 2,000 for contempt of court. The paper had published a transcript of a telephone conversation between former president HM Ershad and then High Court judge Justice Mohammad Latifur Rahman in which Ershad tried to get a favourable verdict in the Janata Tower case.
The Supreme Court later stayed the High Court verdict against Matiur and the matter is still pending with the Supreme Court, Rokanuddin Mahmud, the lawyer for Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, told The Daily Star.
This makes yesterday's verdict the first ever of its kind, senior lawyers said.
Mahmudur's trouble with the Supreme Court is not over yet. He has to appear before it again on August 24 in another contempt of court charge filed in connection with publishing a commentary in his daily headlined “Swadhin Bicharer Name Tamasha" [Farce in the name of independent judiciary] on May 10.
The six-member full bench of the Supreme Court Appellate Division led by Chief Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim yesterday directed Mahmudur and Noman to surrender before the Dhaka Central Jail to serve their times. It also ordered Mahmudur, Hashmat and Noman to deposit their fines to the Accounts Section of the Supreme Court.
According to the verdict, the bench was unanimous about the conviction but it was split five to one on the sentences of Mahmudur and Noman.
The five other judges of the bench were Justice MA Matin, Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman, Justice ABM Khairul Haque, Justice Md Muzammel Hossain and Justice SK Sinha.
Before the chief justice delivered the verdict, Mahmudur stated that he did not agree with the court's observation on Wednesday that he was an "editor by chance".
Mahmudur did not employ a lawyer for his defence; he defended himself. He justified his becoming an acting editor sans journalistic background and career.
He said there are a number of editors who do not have any degree on journalism. He then mentioned names of Abdus Salam of the Bangladesh Observer, Tofazzal Hossain (Manik Miah) of the Ittefaq, Atiqullah Khan Masud of the Janakantha, Salma Islam of the Jugantor, AMM Bahauddin of the Inqilab and Altamash Kabir of the Sangbad, among others.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam yesterday told reporters that the trend of making negative comments about courts would reduce following the Supreme Court verdict against Mahmudur.
Asked whether the freedom of expression will be hampered, he said freedom of speech does not mean making statements that damage the dignity and image of the judiciary.
If people's confidence on the court is harmed by any comment, democracy and the rule of law will be violated, the attorney general said.
He said there is no scope for filing any appeal by the convicted against the Supreme Court verdict since its full bench had passed the order. He said the convicted, however, could file a petition with this court to review the order and pray to the president for mercy.
Moudud Ahmed, a lawyer for Waliullah Noman, said the Supreme Court has sentenced his client even though his client had apologised to the court unconditionally.
Rokanuddin Mahmud, Mahbubey Alam and Moudud Ahmed termed the Supreme Court order the first instance in the history of the judiciary.
Mahbubey Alam had stood for the apex court as prosecutor while Additional Attorney General MK Rahman appeared for the petitioners. Counsels Rafique-ul Huq, Abdur Razzaq and Moudud Ahmed appeared for the four other accused.
Meanwhile, the High Court came down heavily on Mohammad Asaf-ud Daula, former secretary and founder editor of daily Bangladesh Today.
The High Court bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain made him stand in the court dock for two and a half hours.
He is accused of making derogatory comments about the court during a discussion on August 6 at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.
"There must be a limit of audacity. Having worked for three years as a district judge, he (Asaf-ud Daula) thinks that he knows everything. It is ungraceful, as a little learning is a dangerous thing," the bench said.
He had apologised unconditionally to the court.
The bench, however, fixed August 23 for ruling on the charge and asked Asaf-ud Daula to appear before it on that day.
On August 9, the bench issued a suo moto rule against him for making derogatory comments about the court following a news item published in the daily Samakal on August 7.
Lawyer Sheikh Ali Ahmed Khokon placed the newspaper report before the High Court bench on August 9.
The report stated that Asaf-ud Daula raised questions about the neutrality of the court and said that lawyers still look for neutral courts (bench) in the higher court to move cases.
According to the report, he said the judges think themselves gods. He raised question why one cannot complain against a judge if he does a wrong thing and why it would be contempt of court when someone is vocal about it.
During yesterday's hearing, the bench said contempt of court is a criminal offence.
The contemnor (Asaf-ud Daula) has prorogated that the High Court judges' powers of dealing with contempt matters should be reduced and such comments are ridiculous, said the court, adding that the court is the guardian of the constitution, the supreme law of the country.
"This court will not spare anyone who acts outrageously," it said.
It told Asaf-ud Daula's lawyer and amicus curiae (friend of court), "Tell all the bureaucrats and the contemnor to forget their colonial attitude and think that law is above all."
Rafique-ul Huq, Rokanuddin Mahmud, M Zahir, AF Hassan Arif, Abdur Rob Chowdhury, Aktar Imam placed submissions as amicus curiae and requested the court to exempt Asaf-ud Daula from the charge.
Deputy Attorney General Nazrul Islam Talukder represented the government while Ajmalul Hossain stood for Asaf-ud Daula.

Stay updated on the go with The Daily Star Android & iOS News App. Click here to download it for your device.

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 22222

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2222

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2225

Leave your comments

Top News

Top News