Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Parliament votes for legal steps over SC’s 16th amendment verdict

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-09-14 01:42:57 BdST


MPs have passed a motion in parliament to take legal steps over the Supreme Court verdict on the 16th constitutional amendment and some of the court's observations.

The lawmakers adopted the rare motion on a court judgment after a five-hour discussion on Wednesday.

Eighteen MPs, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, took part in the discussion.

The prime minister said the court stepped beyond its jurisdiction to repeal the constitutional amendment brought by parliament.

The confirmation of the High Court verdict meant MPs lost the power to sack top court judges on grounds of misconduct or incompetency.

Though it is not clear what legal steps will be taken following the motion, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the process had already started.

He had earlier told parliament the State would file a petition to review the verdict and hoped the final verdict would come in the State's favour.

Besides condemning the judgment, the MPs slated Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha for some of his observations in it.

Many alleged corruption by him.

The Appellate Division verdict fuelled debate in Bangladesh's political arena when its full version was published on Aug 1.

The ruling Awami League, which passed the amendment in 2014, reacted sharply to the verdict, especially to Justice Sinha's observations on the country's politics, past dictatorships, electoral commission, corruption, governance and the judiciary.

The BNP welcomed the verdict, through which the Supreme Judicial Council provision, brought during BNP founder Ziaur Rahman's military rule, was revived.

When Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal MP Moin Uddin Khan Badal moved the motion earlier on Wednesday, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said after the executive, the legislature was standing face-to-face with the judiciary.

In the motion, Badal said, "Parliament is of the opinion that proper legal steps be taken to cancel the Appellate Division verdict declaring 'unconstitutional' the 16th Amendment to the Constitution; and to delete the honourable chief justice's unconstitutional, objectionable and irrelevant observations on parliament and other important issues."

He said the chief justice also called MPs 'immature'. "The verdict has fuelled discussions and speculations that are unacceptable to the nation."

Before the motion was passed in voice vote, Prime Minister Hasina said, "The court does not have any authority to change the Constitution. They can only explain any law if it is violated."

She said there were 'many contradictions' in the verdict. "It remains a question - who made the verdict and how."

About the chief justice's observations, she said, "He explained 'I-ness' and 'We-ness' in the verdict. The issue of 'I-ness' also comes when the issue is about Supreme Judicial Council."   

She also said there was scope for the council of 'being biased' while taking steps against any judge. The council is formed with the chief justice and two most senior judges of the apex court.

"He questioned parliament and democracy while speaking on different issues. My question is - what is his objective?" she asked.

Law Minister Huq, speaking about the logic behind the amendment, said it was brought to raise the judges' honour, independence and the process to remove them.

He said the draft of the law on the amendment had been sent to the chief justice before it was passed by the Cabinet.

"The draft law was sent to the chief justice in 2015. I didn't get any reply. Later, I received a letter which read, 'Matter sub judice; no comments.' I realised at the time that they have some objectives," he said.

He also said the arguments based on which the 16th amendment was cancelled were 'unacceptable'.

"I am saying categorically that this judgement will not go without a legal challenge," he said.

"This verdict has been issued out of emotion and anger. So we want a legal process. We have already started working on the matter," he added.

The law minister, too, was critical of the chief justice. "He who holds this post should be capable of speaking in legal language. It's not right to undermine someone. The chief justice has been found wanting in both cases." 

Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah said the judiciary "could not add or subtract something from the Constitution."

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed criticised the chief justice for speaking in public.

"He said the media had misquoted him. He, who speaks much, gets misquoted," the senior Awami League leader quipped.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq, among others, spoke in the discussion.

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