From the Editor-in-Chief: A descent too far, too fast

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, October 19th, 2017
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The Supreme Court of Bangladesh has served, in its institutional capacity that can be matched by few other offices of state, satisfactorily as a guardian to prevent some of the injustices and transgressions that can often make a mockery of the relationship forged between the state and its citizens. It is the law that makes possible this abstraction, whereby we commit to values that can never be tangibly reproduced in real life, yet we endeavour to live by them. There will always be some, who strafe with resentment at its Colonial roots. Yet resentment and rejection are two different things, and here the distinction is driven by compulsion, not whim. As equally as Voltaire may have said of God, for any group of people living as a community and hoping to achieve an identifiable society, where the judiciary does not exist, there is a need to invent it.

 

Vices particular to each society will invariably manage to infiltrate even the most high-minded and principled judicial systems. And so in Bangladesh the proceedings of the lower judiciary can often be carried out under a cloak of graft. The appointment process for judges render them hopelessly politicised, and so judges tend to be grandstanding in deference to future career options. Yet what is happening now in the judicial domain, played out almost daily in the public square, is almost painful to watch.

 

It is instructive too. Not for nothing is it advised to strike at the very top, if the aim is to defenestrate any organisation or institution of men. Whether it meant to or not, the government’s chosen denouement for the S.K. Sinha affair, that saw the 21st Chief Justice of Bangladesh leave the country before the end of his tenure in humiliating circumstances this week, has had that effect.

 

Stunning for its lack of precedence and chilling in both execution and effect, Sinha’s exit to Australia to join up with his daughter there, very apparently never again to return, has been followed by the most accelerated shake-up of the Supreme Court and its administration, perhaps ever witnessed in any old British dominion. Ostensibly carried out under the stewardship of the acting chief justice, while pandering quite clearly to directives from the Law Ministry.

 

Dhaka Courier has expressed before its fundamental disagreements with Chief Justice Sinha’s portion of the nearly 800-page full verdict of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, in the appeal filed against a verdict of the High Court that scrapped the 16th Amendment to the constitution of Bangladesh. The genesis of all this. We found many of the observations that accompany the verdict to be discordant, instead of speaking to the legalities of the case in hand.  At the same time, we obviously denounced the wicked move on the part of one quarter – Sinha in his role as chief justice was hardly immune to making enemies – to up the ante by fabricating an insult of the leadership of Bangabandhu, in the verdict’s text. Yet today it is they who have won, and we who hoped better, dreamt bigger and felt deeper for this nation, who must stand aside.

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