From the Editor-in-Chief: Judiciary must not be pushed into controversy

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, February 11th, 2016
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We are encouraged by former chief justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury’s call to lawyers to maintain unity and help uphold the independence of the judiciary. We are at the same time happy that former foreign minister and eminent lawyer Kamal Hossain shares Justice Amin Chowdhury’s view and has indeed advised lawyers not to act as agents for others. Dr. Hossain makes a very valid point when he suggests that those among the lawyers’ community wishing to be ministers can certainly go ahead in the pursuit of their ambitions, but they must not do that to the detriment of the lawyers’ community.

 

The arguments made by Justice Amin Chowdhury and Dr. Kamal Hossain come, of course, against the background of a controversy recently generated by a public expression of negative sentiments against the present chief justice by a retired justice on the issue of judgments being written by judges after retirement. In itself, the point of whether judgments can be written in post-retirement circumstances by judges should have been a matter of academic and legal debate. But what has compounded the problem is the fact that the retired justice in question has gone public with his disagreements with Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha and at one point even made the surprising suggestion that the chief justice resign since his actions were, in his view, undermining the government. Nothing could be more shocking for one who has been a judge at the top tier of the judiciary to accuse a sitting chief justice of acts that go against the government.

 

We believe that Justice Shamsuddin Choudhury, the retired judge in question, should not have made the accusation against the CJ. Indeed, any difficulties he has or might have had should have been resolved within the corridors of the judiciary rather than being articulated through the media. Besides, to equate the working of the present justice with the modalities in which the government of former prime minister Khaleda Zia performed introduces a clear political element into the entire story. That certainly is not welcome, for a couple of reasons. In the first place, it is the integrity of the chief justice and by extension the judiciary that is being brought into question. In the second, the former justice’s charge that the CJ is working against the government puts the government itself in an embarrassing position. Overall, the feeling one has regarding the whole sad episode is that the judiciary is being needlessly drawn into controversy on the post-retirement judgment issue.

 

In a country where politicization has been eating away at nearly every aspect of societal behavior, it is an absolute necessity for the judiciary to remain, indeed to be kept, above every attempt to undermine it. Those trying to drag the institution into a questionable state must be checked. Everyone — and that includes retired justices — has a moral duty to ensure that the independence and integrity of the judiciary is upheld. The issue of post-retirement judgments, in the way it is being carried on, must not become a precedent for the future.

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