Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Top court gets pat for ensuring justice

The Supreme Court has drawn much attention at home and abroad over the past five years for its proactive role in ensuring justice through disposal of some important cases.
After the AL-led Grand Alliance government took office, steps were taken to dispose a number of significant cases, including the Bangabandhu murder case, in line with the ruling party’s election manifesto.
Besides, the judiciary was the centre of political discourse for some landmark judgments, including the verdict on war crimes, Fifthth, Seventh and 13th amendment, trial on Col. Taher, verdict on BNP chairperson’s Dhaka Cantonment house, proclamation of the independence and on holding the post of Grameen Bank’s MD by its founder Dr Yunus, and death penalty to Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah for his involvement in war crimes.
It was the Supreme Court, which was awarded death penalty to Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah revising the International Crimes Tribunal verdict that awarded him life term imprisonment for crimes against humanity committed during the war of liberation in 1971.
In the first-ever execution of any war criminal in the country’s history Mollah was hanged on December 13 after the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions filed by the defence.
However, an unprecedented incident AL activists, armed with sticks and meat cleavers, carried out a sudden attack on pro-BNP lawyers on the Supreme Court premises and created mayhem on December 29 last year.
The AL activists broke through the locked entrance of the SC building, which was being guarded by police.
Such an “unprecedented” incident has never occurred on the apex court premises since the country’s independence.
Although the judiciary played a key role in ensuring justice and carried out its duty on a wide range of issues, many felt that the ruling AL had failed to fulfil its electoral pledge to ensure impartiality in the judiciary. The ruling party’s 2008 election manifesto said that genuine independence and impartiality of the judiciary will be ensured.
The 15th Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed in line with the Supreme Court’s verdict. But there was a turmoil in the political arena after the copy of the 13th Amendment verdict was released on September 17 this year. The country witnessed dawn-to-dusk hartals called by the BNP-led 18-party alliance to restore the caretaker government system.
The top court intervened whenever the executive branch of the state failed to stop illegal grabbing of land and rivers, violation of human rights, sexual harassment of women and pollution of the environment over the past five years.
It was the apex court that put the controversy over who proclaimed the country’s independence to rest. In a landmark ruling on June 21, 2009, the High Court Division of SC said it was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who proclaimed the country’s independence in 1971. It also declared illegal and unconstitutional the publications that claim that the independence was proclaimed by the late president Ziaur Rahman, who was also the founder of BNP.
The SC also resolved the dispute over BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s previous residence in Dhaka Cantonment.
The High Court and Appellate Divisions of SC issued directives in about 100 public interest litigations relating to protecting the environment and legal, constitutional, fundamental, and human rights of the people.
In July, 2010, the HC declared all kinds of extra-judicial punishment, including those in the name of fatwa, illegal and directed the authorities to take steps to ban corporal punishment for school students.
In March 2009, the HC ruled against import of any ship for scrapping unless hazardous chemicals are cleaned at source outside Bangladesh. It also issued guidelines to stop sexual harassment of women at work places, educational institutions and public places in the same year.
The HC also directed the government to demarcate boundaries of the Buriganga, Balu, Turag, and Shitalakkhya rivers and stop illegal grabbers. However, the authorities concerned have failed to properly comply with the HC’s order, according to sources.
On October 4, 2010, the HC ruled that Bangladesh was a secular state since the original Constitution of 1972 was automatically restored following the SC’s judgment on the Fifth Amendment. In this secular state, everybody has religious freedom and therefore no man, woman or child can be forced to wear religious attires like burqa, cap and dhoti, it said.
Expressing grave concern over repeated instances of violence on women, the HC, on November 2, 2010, directed the government to formulate a policy and guidelines to curb the prevalence of the crime.
The apex court, on May 5 last year, rejected the petition of Muhammad Yunus for reversing its earlier verdict regarding his removal from Grameen Bank. The central bank, on March 2 last year, had removed the Nobel laureate as the micro-lender’s managing director for allegedly flouting rules when he was reappointed in 1999. Yunus and the nine directors filed separate petitions, challenging the legality of his removal; but the High Court, in its verdict on March 8, dismissed the petitions.
“It is evident that the ruling party has failed to give up the previous tradition of appointing judges on the basis of political considerations,” eminent jurist barrister Rafique-ul Huq told The Independent earlier.
“The future of the judiciary is very bad. The AL, too, will feel its effect someday. They should have refrained from politicising the judiciary,” he noted.
Eminent jurist Dr Kamal, in a discussion meeting, urged the government to end the politicisation of the process of appointing judges. He also suggested that a law should be enacted to appoint judges at every tier of the judiciary. He also said that appointment and promotion of judges should not be politicised.
Dr Shahdeen Malik said judges were being appointed on political considerations in recent years, raising concern among all sections of society. Transparency and accountability in appointing judges could be ensured if the appointments were made through a specific process or a law, he added.
As per Article 95 of the Constitution, a law for selection of judges must be enacted in Parliament. Any further appointment of judges without a law must be declared as arbitrary, Shahdeen noted.

Courtesy of The Independent

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