Comparing with Pakistan is unacceptable: HPM Sheikh Hasina

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has come down hard on Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha for his observations in the 16th constitutional amendment verdict and his responses to criticism that followed.

The verdict contains 'many irrelevant and contradictory remarks', Hasina said on Monday at the Awami League's programme organised to remember the victims of the Aug 21 grenade attack.

"There is a saying that freedom is good, but not for a child.”

“We don’t expect any childish behaviour," she said in a clear reference to Chief Justice Sinha's observations in the verdict and responses to criticism.

A day earlier, Chief Justice Sinha advised that the government should behave in a mature manner and not react sharply to the scrapping of the 16th amendment by the top court.

At the same hearing on Sunday, Justice Sinha referred to Pakistan’s apex court that disqualified the prime minister from office last month.

Justice Sinha said nothing happened there, indicating that no criticism or reactions followed the verdict handed by Pakistan’s top court. “We need to be more mature,” he said in his advice to the government.

The mention of Pakistan, a touchy subject in Bangladesh’s politics, prompted Hasina to hit back at the chief justice for his comment.

“We can tolerate everything, but not comparison with Pakistan. A verdict was passed in Pakistan, and someone is using it as a threat here," she said. “The threat will lead nowhere.”

“Why am I being compared with Pakistan's prime minister?” said Bangladesh premier demanding ‘justice from people’s court’ for the chief justice's comment.

“People's court is the most powerful. No-one can deny this," she said.

Sheikh Hasina also said democracy will continue in Bangladesh. "Those who will try to grab power must face the music."

The Appellate Division published the full verdict on the 16th amendment on Aug 1. Chief Justice Sinha's observation on Bangladesh's politics, past dictatorships, electoral commission, corruption, governance and judiciary in the verdict has sparked sharp reactions.

The government, which had passed the 16th amendment in 2014, announced that it will get 'some unacceptable parts' erased from the verdict.

Ruling Awami Leaders said some observations 'belittled' the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday expressed doubt about whether the other Appellate Division judges had expressed their views 'freely' in the verdict.

"I guess that the chief justice did not give them the opportunity. You can sense it if you read the verdict," she said, directly referring to Justice Sinha for the first time after the publication of the verdict.

She said there were many 'contradictions' in the verdict, including an observation on parliamentary seats reserved for women.

The prime minister also questioned Justice Sinha's observations on parliament despite being appointed by the president, who himself is elected by MPs.

"How did he forget that he was appointed by the president?" she wondered.

"He should have resigned before making these remarks," Hasina commented.

The prime minister started to dwell on the verdict around halfway into her around 45-minute speech.

"We now see that the Supreme Court is making different kinds of remarks, political and intimidating," she said.

"I wonder how they call MPs, who appointed them, criminal. It was said that there are businesspeople in parliament. Is it a crime to do business? What is the motive of undermining parliament?" she asked.

The prime minister criticised the chief justice for reviving the Supreme Judicial Council provision in the Constitution to sack top court judges. She noted that the provision was added to the Constitution during the military regime of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman.

She also slated Justice Sinha for blocking the Anti-Corruption Commission investigation into allegation of graft against former judge Justice Md Zainul Abedin.

"It cannot be investigated! How could he say this despite being the chief justice!" she wondered. "Harbouring a corrupt person is not the chief justice's job. This is a violation of the Constitution."

"It cannot be that someone cannot be put on trial just because he or she delivered many verdicts," she added.

She also criticised the chief justice's observation that the provision empowering the president to control judges is contradictory to the Constitution.

"The president be stripped of his power - what kind of demand is this?" she asked.

She was still reading the 799-page verdict on the 16th amendment and taking notes because she will speak about it in parliament's next session.

Sheikh Hasina also spoke about senior lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain calling Attorney General Mahbubey Alam 'bastard' during a hearing by an Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Sinha in May.

"One of our lawyers, renowned internationally, called the attorney general names. I don't know how a man from a decent family can use such a word I cannot utter," she said.

Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

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