Living in pre- versus post-1/11 era
The actions of the administration cadre, opposing separation of the judiciary days before the November 1 implementation day, should be seen as a barefaced example of people who want to live in the pre-1/11 days of Bangladesh. "We cannot push the country towards anarchy in the name of independence of the judiciary," Magistrate Rokon-Ud-Doula said, as if the people already forgot the pre-1/11 anarchic days. His argument that it was not possible to implement a meaningful separation of the judiciary before 2021 is sheer nonsense.
Although, a negotiation between the Bangladesh Administrative Service Association (Basa) and the law adviser apparently removed the obstruction to separation of the judiciary on November 1, the incident needs a postmortem to punish the culprits so that such antagonism never resurfaces.
Basa handed the law adviser a seven-point recommendation that includes removal of "discrepancies" in the process of absorption of the judicial and admin cadres into the judicial service, giving them some magistracy power. Couldn't they do this a long time ago instead of waiting until the last few days prior to implementation of the process? The CTG mustn't yield to their pressure and, in the process, make the judiciary separation half- hearted and weak.
It was reported that the Basa leaders regretted some of the officials' "objectionable" statements on Sunday. That was the right thing to do. But that doesn't exonerate them from their misdemeanors and violations of service codes.
In such situations, there should be zero tolerance, reminiscent of what happened with university teachers in connection with the recent campus protests. All violators of the state of emergency and the service rules must be dealt with as per the law.
It is one thing to advance your grievances in a lawful manner -- it is altogether a different ball game when an enforcer of the law, Magistrate Rokon-Ud-Doula, calls for shutting down the administrative operations of the state if the government brings legal recourse against his alleged misconduct.
Failure to take any disciplinary action against such acts would simply mean that the government is afraid to take punitive action against him and his accomplices -- which may encourage others to dare to carry out such violations.
The administration cadre has absolutely no legal basis for opposing the separation of the judiciary -- a prerequisite to good governance and rule of law demanded by the nation since its independence. These power hungry cliques are not concerned about what the people of the country are going through -- recurrent floods, unabated price spiral, chronic unemployment. The demand for separation of the judiciary is not a creation of this CTG -- it is a long unfulfilled aspiration of the people of the country.
The protest gathering, in the guise of a seminar on good governance, against the scheduled separation of the judiciary would certainly make the CTG rethink what would happen to law and order should the state of emergency be lifted, as is demanded by the political parties of the country.
Inviting officers from all over the country for a seminar on good governance, they transformed it into a rally of rebellion against the state and the government. Their gathering made it obvious that the administrative cadre was the reason why the immediate past government delayed the implementation of the judiciary separation under various pretexts nearly endlessly -- 25 times by my count. In the process, the BNP-Jamaat alliance government pursued the perverted policy of politicising the judiciary.
Why did the administrative cadre demand the postponement of the separation of the judiciary until the return of an elected government? It is because they know that they could twist the arms of the political government to scrap, or at least delay, the implementation process for years to come -- may be forever.
They realised that they were losing power -- while the people were gaining power. They're crying foul -- while the people, at long last, are cheering happily. So they made their desperate bid to somehow hang on to the pre-1/11 era of the devilish rule of law. But that won't happen.
Why they wanted to revert to the pre-1/11 politicised judiciary and ill-governance is inexplicable. The country is moving forward in the post-1/11 era by establishing the rule of law through reforming the ACC, PSC, EC, and the police -- the most important one though is the independence of the judiciary. Thank God that good sense finally prevailed, and the beginning of the independent judiciary on November 1 will mark a historic day for the nation. Finally the aspirations of "equality of everyone in the eyes of the law" shall be upheld without any fear or favour.
However, those who violated the law and the state of emergency should be treated as harshly as those who engineered the recent campus protests in Dhaka University and elsewhere. Those who distributed leaflets and cheered the magistrate's fiery speech must be identified from video footage and be disciplined for their explicit acquiescence with him.
To establish the rule of law and good governance, law enforcers must be steadfast and move forthwith to round up the violators of the law. To establish the rule of law there mustn't be any complaisance or compromise -- or deviation from zero tolerance.
Dr. Abdullah A. Dewan is Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University.