Justice Naima Haider rejected a hearing on a discussion in parliament
The ruling Awami League moved to reintroduce a constitutional provision to impeach judges by the legislature, after more than two years have passed since the grand alliance MPs of the ninth parliament had raised such a demand.
The situation arose when a high court judge ruled that then speaker Abdul Hamid, now president of the republic, had committed seditious offence by making comments about the judiciary.
What the speaker said about the Supreme Court was “provocative and tantamount to treason against the state,” said Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury on June 5, 2012.
His comments sparked debate in parliament with the MPs demanding the removal of the judge through the formation of the Supreme Judicial Council or restoration of the original article 96 of the constitution to make the judiciary accountable to the legislature.
According to the constitution, no legal proceedings can be initiated against the discussion in parliament, which is sovereign.
Justice Naima Haider rejected a hearing on a discussion in parliament.
On May 29, 2012, Abdul Hamid told parliament: “It does not look good when the court makes quick decisions to solve their problems and spends years on delivering justice, as the court is perceived neutral and independent.”
“If people are aggrieved with court verdicts, the day will come when they will stand against the court,” he said in response to a question from Shahriar Alam MP. It is Shahriar Alam who brought the issue of a High Court order on handover of a land by the Roads and Highways Division to the notice of the House.
Senior MP Suranjit Sengupta raised the debate in the House.
“We handed over parliament’s authority to you [judiciary], considering that democracy is mature enough. We want you [chief justice] to exercise your authority to remove the judge who has clearly violated the constitution,” Suranjit said.
He said the Awami League needed five minutes to bring the authority of restoring article 96 of the 1972 constitution back to parliament.
“The judge has no right to stay in the chair for a moment because his derogatory remarks about the speaker amount to contempt of parliament.
“We will wait three days, and then we will bring back the parliament’s sovereign power [to impeach a judge through voting],” Suranjit said, urging then president Zillur Rahman to initiate the formation of the Supreme Judicial Council.
But the council was not formed.
Awami League lawmakers Tofail Ahmed and Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Jatiya Party’s Mujibul Haque and Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal took part in the hour-long discussion moved by Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon.
“I think the time has come to restore article 96 of the 1972 constitution,” Tofail Ahmed said urging the government to amend the constitution to restore the parliament’s sovereignty.
Tofail then said the speaker had told parliament that the state organs should not cross their limits and rather supplement each other for the betterment of the people. The speaker did not make any comment against any of the state organs; rather he wanted all organs to work in harmony.
Sheikh Selim said the judiciary was independent but not above the legislature. “Such an attack is not an attack on the speaker alone, it is an attack on the Jatiya Sangsad,” he said. “If the speaker is called a traitor, are all the lawmakers and the government deemed traitors too.”
He said the judiciary could in no way give its observation on parliamentary proceedings as the constitution has provided a blanket of immunity to the lawmakers for their discussion in the plenary and committees.
“I hope the judiciary will withdraw the judge and uphold the sovereignty of parliament,” he said adding that the judiciary should also apologise to the speaker.
Mujibul Haque said the judge might be a “psycho” who enjoys humiliating others. Shamsuddin was made a judge “at the mercy of the Awami League although he has no qualification for the position.”
The judge’s comments questioned the parliament’s sovereignty, he said and demanded restoration of the parliament’s authority to impeach the Supreme Court judges.
JSD’s Badal said the judge’s comments were an ominous sign seen in the Pakistan era. “A quarter is out to create chaos when the government is trying to bring order in different sectors.”
After the January 5 election, the scenario changed.
In line with the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law Ministry, on April 27, the Bangladesh Law Commission sent a proposal on the ways for speedy disposal of pending cases.
Led by former chief justice ABM Khairul Haque, the commission, which advises the government on legal reforms, proposed that the constitution could be changed to restore the original article 96 of the constitution to make the judges accountable.
On July 16, the watchdog discussed the Law Commission report. Suranjit Sengupta, the chairman of the watchdog, told media the next day that the legislature should get back the authority of impeaching the judges for the parliament’s sovereignty.
In July, the prime minister told a press conference that her government had planned to amend the constitution to empower the legislature to remove judges for misconduct and violation of the charter.
The cabinet yesterday approved the constitution amendment bill to introduce the provision.
The bill is likely to be placed in the legislature in the upcoming third session starting on September 1.