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Bravo Supreme Court
Proud Judicial Administration

Bravo Supreme Court Proud Judicial Administration

- Khaled Mahmood*

Well done the honorable Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha. Excellent other members of the Appeal Bench- Justice Abdul Wahab Mia, Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmood Hossain, Justice Hasan Faiz Siddiqui, Justice Md. Iman Ali, Justice Nizamul Haque Nasim and Justice Mirza Hossain Haider. Most welcome to the historic Judgment delivered by this Bench against the two ministers for contempt of court with a punishment of paying a fine of fifty thousand taka each or in default of fine payment, 7 days imprisonment. Through this courageous verdict of Supreme court the Judiciary has been advanced to a new prestigious place in the present century. Along with the countrymen the government has also now got the right message how long is the hands of the constitution and the proper application of judgement in trial. Through the epoch-making verdict of the highest court of our country it has once again been proved that none of the President, the Prime Minister, Ministers, MPs, Bureaucrats or any citizen of the country is above the law. In matters of the rights of all citizens, it is natural that the law and judgement would equitably treat. But it is noticed in our country that with the difference of cases/persons sometimes judgement differs. Beheading of democracy, illegal interference in respect of administration and trial, corruption and misuse of power— all these are hated chapters of history. Rulers and judges have also been tried in this world. It would run also in future. Bangladesh is not an isolated island on the earth. In the planets or satellites wherever the mischief mongers think themselves safe, light or heavy punishment awaits them. And for the honest and good people reward is inevitable. It is the rule of the nature that there shall be pain and pangs, good and bad, oppression-persecution, sacrifice-endeavor. Through ages-centuries the nature has controlled these matters in some way or other. On 27the March last the highest court of justice in the country has fined two ministers of the government Tk. 50 thousand each for their offence of the contempt of the court. In default they would have to serve a jail of seven days. In the meantime on 2 April, 2016 as per order of the highest court of the country Food Minister Kamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque has deposited an amount of Tk. 50 thousand each fined by Supreme Court for the offence of contempt of court.

Before the delivery of judgement, the Chief Justice asked the Attorney General to read out the report appearing on 6 March in the daily Janakantha. Reading the same over by the Attorney General, the Chief Justice remarked that we the judges of the higher court have considered all the matters minutely. Names of many persons have come up. We haven’t filed complaints against many of them. Virtually we haven’t wanted to exacerbate with the concept. Accusation for contempt of court has been filed against two ministers for conveying a message. The court further remarked, we are not agreed to accept the petition praying for unconditional pardon and exemption from the allegation. The petitioners are ministers with constitutional positions and have taken the oath of protecting the constitution. The remarks they have made dishonoring the Chief Justice and the highest court of Justice, have been revealed to us as motivated. Their remarks are tantamount to interference to the judicial administration and it has injured the prestige of the Judiciary. If they are spared, any person may make the same kind of disrespectful utterances on the Judiciary. That is why we are making them guilty of the contempt of the Court.

Background of the Suit:

On 5 March last in a meeting of Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee in the BILIA Auditorium of Dhanmondi in the capital two ministers made remarks on the Chief Justice and the Judiciary ahead of the delivery of the judgement on the appeal case of Al Badr leader Mir Qashem Ali receiving death penalty for war crimes and crime against humanity. Food Minister Kamrul Islam demanded for the reconstitution of the Appeal Bench by dropping the Chief Justice for hearing of the appeal against the death penalty. He also said that during the last 45 years no Chief Justice like the present one had been so talkative. He cautioned the Chief Justice to stop this practice else the government should think of his alternative. Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque suggested that the Chief Justice should stop excessive talks if he (CJ) desired to be in the chair. He further said the remarks that were made by the Chief Justice on the crime against humanity case, should be withdrawn else he (CJ) should consider leaving this position. Moreover, these two ministers also made few highly objectionable remarks on the Chief Justice, trial courts and Attorney General. After their remarks got published in the mass media talks-discussion initiated at different levels and quarters.

Afterwards on 8 March last a full Bench of Appellate Division under the leadership of the Chief Justice instituted a suo moto case and issued an order on these two ministers to appear before the Court for submitting explanation in this regard by their physical presence on 15 March. On that day the highest court of justice upheld the death penalty of war criminal Mir Qashem Ali awarded by the Tribunal.

On 15 March last the two ministers prayed for unconditional pardon through their lawyers. Although on that day Minister for Liberation War Affairs remained present at the Court, the Food Minister could not do so due to his assignment of state duties outside the country. On time extension petition on his behalf the Court ordered both to be present on 20 March. On this day the Appellate Division fixed 27 March as the next date of hearing remarking that the written explanation submitted by Kamrul Islam was not properly made. On this date the highest court said the remarks of these two ministers are audacious. They have broken the oath of office and dishonored the highest court of justice. The Chief Justice wanted to know what would be the consequence of the breach of oath for protection of the constitution.

Whether Food Minister Kamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque can remain in office after being punished for the contempt of the court, has initiated questions. The distinguished lawyers think that may there be legal obligation or not, on moral ground they should not stay in the positions. They should voluntarily quit the chair.

It is clearly stated in the verdict of the Appellate Division that staying in a constitutional post they have breached the oath for protecting the constitution. Unless they voluntarily resign from the post, a constitutional crisis may arise. In that case it may necessitate directives from the court for its solution, some ones understand. But Attorney General Mahabub-E-Alam thinks that the Cabinet would take decision in this respect. Whether they have to resign from the post or not would be known after the publication of the full verdict of the suit. But the question of morality is involved here. He has farther said that the court has remarked that these two ministers have seriously dishonored the court. That is why the court did not accept the prayer for unconditional exemption. The gravity of their offence is so high that they are not worthy of pardon.

As per sub-clause (d) of clause 2 of article 66 of the constitution a person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being Member of Parliament who has been on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release and as per sub-clause (e) of clause 2 of article 66—any person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being a Member of the Parliament who has been convicted of any offence under the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972.

Although there is no scope for raising questions on constitutional points about their position as Member of the Parliament, the legal experts are of the opinion that there is question on their staying member of the cabinet. They say even if there is nothing in the constitution about the convicted person as a minister, the cabinet under the Prime Minister can take a decision on the question of keeping these two ministers continue in office.

A retired Justice of High Court Justice Nazrul Islam Chowdhury opines that a person having a constitutional position/post does not have the eligibility of continuing in office once he/she breaks his/her oath of office.

Our opinion in this respect is that Judiciary is an organ of the government.  It is different and independent from the other two components of the government. The posts of the Justices are constitutional. Justices perform their responsibilities of delivering judgement following the laws accommodated in the constitution. Any Justice/judge, MP, Minister, Prime Minister, President or any citizen of the state would have to be treated as a criminal offender if he/she gets involved in anti state-anti constitutional activities or breaches the constitutional oath of office.

On the charge of breach of the oath of office both the ministers— Kamrul Islam and Mozammel Haque have been convicted by the highest court of Justice by being adjudged as guilty of offence. In that case these two ministers have committed an offence as those of the other criminal offenders. These two ministers are now identified as guilty of offence to the entire nation. In deliberation of the highest court of justice both the ministers have committed serious offence. So they have made a loathsome act of trampling the constitution. Can the violation of the constitution be viewed as an anti-state activity?

Our clear opinion is that on moral ground Kamrul Islam and Mozammel Haque can no longer continue to be a minister. They should immediately resign to save the prestige of the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary and above all the constitution. We hope that through the resignation of these two Ministers adjudged as guilty of the contempt of court the nation would get rid of the disgrace.

It is piously hoped that the Prime Minister and the Parliament would come to a right decision as soon as possible.

Absence of Kamrul Islam and Mozammel Haque as Minister or MP would not add much loss to the government of Sheikh Hasina or Awami League rather it would be of benefit to Awami League or Sheikh Hasina as quickly as they leave the office.

We hope that the daughter of the father of the nation Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the pioneer of multifarious development works advancing with the commitment of establishing rule of law and preserving the prestige of the entire nation would take steel-hard decision in this respect. Sheikh Hasina is at present the most powerful lady in the world. Such power of her should be utilized for protecting the honor of the country and the nation at large. E