Both treasury and opposition bench lawmakers on Wednesday bitterly criticised Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha for ‘putting some unconstitutional, unwarranted, objectionable and irrelevant observations’ in the 16th amendment verdict, belittling Bangabandhu and terming members of parliament immature.
Speaking on a resolution, they urged the CJ to withdraw the verdict saying if parliament can impeach the President, Prime Minister and the Speaker, why not the judges.
Parliament is sovereign constitutionally but the Supreme Court is not, they said, asking the government to file a review petition against the verdict.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal lawmaker Moinuddin Khan Badal placed the motion under Rule 147 (1) of the Rules of Procedure before the House to take proper legal steps for scrapping the declaration of the 16th amendment to the Constitution as ‘ultra vires’ and withdrawal of the objectionable and irrelevant observations made by the Chief Justice in the verdict.
The House, with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in chair, unanimously passed the resolution by voice vote.
Taking the floor, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said all must be accountable for their respective work.
“We are accountable to the people as we go to the people every five years. The judiciary must have the accountability to parliament,” she said.
Hasina, also the president of the ruling Awami League, said the words on Bangabandhu, made by the Chief Justice, were repetition of the words of BNP-Jamaat and anti-liberation forces.
“Through the verdict he has made himself questionable and tried to make parliament and democracy questionable. What was his motive?” she said.
Calling for upholding the democratic and voting rights of the people, the premier said people are the owners of the state.“So, their rights must be upheld,” she said.
She further said that the people rejected the verdict as their sentiment was not reflected through the verdict.
“The verdict is not acceptable to anyone, except BNP,” she said.
The premier said the three branches of the state—executive, judiciary and legislative—will enjoy same rights.
“The judiciary can put explanation on the enacted law. The court neither frame nor amends the law,” she said.
Pointing at the Chief Justice, the premier said whether the judiciary remained under the CJ.
“If the Chef Justice becomes unhappy with any justice, then that justice will lose his job,” she said.
The premier was critical of raising question over the role of Bangabandhu in the country’s Liberation War.
“Martial law ordinances were declared illegal. But how the Supreme Judicial Council, formed through a Martial law ordinance, is given the legality,” she posed the question.
The premier said the Appellate Division cannot amend the constitution. “It was not given such authority,” she said.
Thanking Badal for bringing the proposal, law minister Anisul Haq said they took an initiative to file review petition against the verdict.
“This verdict will not go without final challenge,” he said, adding that they would also go for a legal protection over the illogical and unconstitutional statements of the CJ.
The minister was critical of the CJ for undermining other organs of the state.
“Being head of one of the organs of the state, it is no way responsible manner to undermine another organ of the state,” he said.
“Impeaching judges by parliament can no way be unconstitutional,” he said.
Anisul said the objective of the 16th amendment was clearly explained when it was passed in Parliament in 2014.
Mentioning the judges autocratic manner, he said Justice Abdur Rahman Chowdhury, Justice KM Sobhan, Justice Debesh Bhattacharya and some others were sent to forced retirement without following the Supreme Judicial Council.
Citing examples of different developed and democratic countries, the minister said parliament is better, modern, acceptable and democratic than Supreme Judicial Council regarding the impeachment of judges.
“Parliaments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and India, among others, also have the practice to impeach the judges,” he said.
The law minister criticised the CJ for speaking much in public.
“None of the Chief Justices has spoken much like Sinha in the past,” he said.
Some lawmakers demanded that the law minister take all sorts of measures to scrap the verdict.
They came down heavily on Chief Justice SK Sinha for his observations in the verdict. Some even attacked him personally.
The full verdict nullifying the 16th amendment to the constitution was released on Aug 1.
The Appellate Division on July 3 upheld the verdict of High Court that declared illegal the 16th amendment to the constitution.
In 2014, the government amended the constitution to restore parliament’s authority to impeach the Supreme Court judges on grounds of misconduct or incapacity.
Advising the law minister to file a review on the 16th amendment verdict, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed urged the CJ to withdraw the verdict.
“The Chief Justice in his observations in the verdict mentioned that parliament is dysfunctional. It means he wants to mention Bangladesh as a failed state,” he said.
Referring to the time of framing of the Constitution, the veteran lawmaker said, “When we framed the constitution, many of the incumbent judges were then school students. But the judges are claiming themselves as mature.”
Noting surprise, he exclaimed: “Today they [judges] have become matured and we have become immature!”
“If anybody undermines parliament or its members, the whole nation is undermined. We naturally become sad if anyone speaks against parliament,” he said, adding that they brought the amendment in this parliament to return to the 1972 Constitution.
Hinting at the CJ, he said, “You should not speak much. He himself said that the media misquoted him. Those who speak much, face such a situation.”
The lawmaker was also critical of the CJ as he compared Bangladesh with Pakistan.
He said, “If the President, the prime minister and the speaker can be impeached by parliament, then why they [judges] cannot be impeached by parliament?”
Mentioning that parliaments of almost all countries have the power to impeach judges, Tofail called upon the law minister to take realistic measures to restore the 16th amendment.
“There were many chief justices in the past but none talked too much like the present one.”
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said the CJ should withdraw the verdict to regain the image of the judiciary and judges.
“The Chief Justice has undermined Bangabandhu and parliament. He has tarnished the image of the country through the observation in the verdict,” he said.
Taking the floor, AL presidium member Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim asked the government to bring a sedition charge against the CJ for his anti-state activities.
“People have rejected the verdict. You (CJ) are conspiring against the country through the verdict. So, a sedition charge should be framed against you,” he said.
Mentioning the judges’ alleged involvement in corruption, he said, “You are justices...your ill activities are limitless. The verdict, which was given by you, has to be scrapped by you.”
He said the CJ has turned the judiciary into a ‘political platform.’
“If you [Chief Justice] want to come in politics then resign from your post and take part in the election.”
Agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury termed the verdict as ill motivated one.
“We have seen such evil plans during the Pakistan and military regimes”, she said.
Highlighting the authority of parliament, Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah said, “Parliament is sovereign constitutionally but the Supreme Court is not.”
He said such a harsh remark against parliament is not acceptable.
Workers Party president Rashed Khan Menon said this verdict was partial and motivated.
“Many of the observations were illogical. Parliament is not bound to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court,” he said, calling for expunging the unwarranted observations from the full-text of the verdict.
Opposition leader Raushan Ershad, Dipu Moni, AKM Mozammel Haque, Anisul Islam Mahmud, Fakhrul Imam, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, Rustam Ali Farazi, Fazilatun Nasa Bappy and Tahzib Alam Sddique, among others, spoke on the motion.