Bangladesh chief justice rues politicization of judiciary


Dhaka : Bangladesh’s most respected institution, the judiciary, has been politicised and the damage will take more than 20 years to repair, laments Chief Justice Ruhul Amin.

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He told a gathering of lawyers in Noakhali that the damage wrought by political appointments to the judiciary in the recent years “will take more than 20 years to remedy”, The Daily Star reported.

The current interim administration echoes him.

“I must admire the courage of the chief justice for being so open and frank about the problems,” said Law Advisor Mainul Hosein, himself a barrister at law, who was of the view that the highest judiciary cannot survive with the incompetent or unacceptable judges for the next 20 years.

Pushed to predict how many judges are unacceptable, he said the removal of five-six controversial Supreme Court judges would find the judiciary in a better state.

“There is no easy solution as the judges enjoy constitutional protection. Still, judges and lawyers must work together to save the highest judiciary. Perhaps, as a last resort, we will have to use the Supreme Judicial Council,” he said, adding that the judges in question must go.

“We have to admit at the same time that those who appointed them are solely responsible for the disaster.”

Mainstream political parties hold a similar view, but each blames the other for appointing judges with political leanings and connections to judiciary at all levels.

The judiciary has held a special place in Bangladesh with several of its heads of state being retired judges.

The constitution too provides for the immediate past chief justice being made the chief advisor of a neutral, caretaker government that conducts elections.

The practice was followed in 1991, 1996 and 2001, but ran into trouble last October when Awami League, then heading an opposition alliance, charged that Justice K.M. Hasan was a former functionary of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and could not be trusted to provide a neutral administration.

A perception that large sections of the administration, including the judiciary at different levels, was politicised and might work for her defeat prompted Awami League leader and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina to boycott the ninth general election in January.

The polls, scheduled for Jan 22, were eventually cancelled.