How much difference a verdict can make

Afsan Chowdhury
Saturday, August 19th, 2017


 

It seems the points raised in the 16th amendment are not as important as the political fight that has emerged out of it. To make it more difficult, it’s a three ring tussle with the Judiciary and the Parliament fighting in one, the AL fighting the Supreme Court in another and finally the as expected BNP fighting the AL in the third.

 

To most ordinary people, the entire issue of what privilege the Parliament or the Judiciary enjoys is beyond their understanding and quite frankly, they don’t care. What is it to them if the Legislature can impeach a Judge or not. They do give votes to elect the MPs but people in general hardly see them as accountable to them so the MPs live in a happy world of their own. It’s true that they go to the courts which cause them much difficulty but most don’t. To them the Legislature and the Judiciary are a very distant and revered and powerful body, very little to do with their running of life.

 

That is not to say that the status of the MPs or Judges are any less because of how far away they may seem to ordinary people. They constitute the Legislature and the Courts so they have the power etc.. However, this particular point about the power to remove judges is not exactly something that is of great priority to ordinary people.

 

Meanwhile the Supreme Judiciary looks strong. The reign of Justice Sinha will go down as the most notable reign of them all in our history rill date. Let’s face a non-political fact which is that the current Supreme Court has stood up against the might of a ruling government like no other SC before. Justice Sinha and his fellow Judges seem unafraid of the political consequences of their work.

 

As judges they have come down hard on many matters and the higher judiciary in general has been more robust than most higher courts before.  The rulings on the cabinet ministers on contempt of court charges, is very significant in this regard and of course the 16th amendment appeal rejection is the peak. Call it whatever but we are looking at a most unusual Supreme judicial regime.

 

Prescription for concern

 

Apart from all this, Justice Sinha is no longer a distant Chief Justice but a person of  robe who has shown that he can’t be cowed down. The way he handled the Greek statue episode shows he can’t be intimidated but at the same time he is flexible. He is not stubborn but on matters of principle he seems quite determined.

 

A lot of discussions are on the Observations of the Supreme Court on the cancellation of the 16th amendment verdict and the Government has asked for the expunging   of certain remarks. Problem is, the Supreme Court alone can do it but it may hardly wish to do so having expressed it anyway. Besides, constitutional experts have also said that there is nothing in it that needs to be expunged making the matter complicated and possibly confrontational.

 

And that is where the AL-BNP conflict issue comes in. As was expected and as it happened, both parties have come out with a   political position and the points being made are not on matters of law but politics. Personal attacks are also being aimed and that is difficult because how the matter will be played out is not understood.  CJ Sinha has shown that he is not going to be intimidated and if that is the case, the PM is not a person to step back either. If both parties are unbending, what can be the consequence?

 

The roles, the rules, the antagonisms and conflicts are all mixing up and that is why there is a whiff of concern in the air. There is very little chance that the Appellate Division will back down and if that is the case what steps will the Legislature and the Executive take?

 

It’s in this unprecedented situation that we have fallen into that we realize our governance system in general is still “immature” but we hope a way out can be found.

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