Nation this week

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017


The fallout from the Supreme Court upholding a High Court verdict that declared the 16th amendment to the constitution illegal, continued to swirl this week following the release of the full-text of the Supreme Court’s judgement on August 1.


Ministers and MPs – who passed the amendment in September 2014 granting themselves the power to remove judges of the Supreme Court with a two-thirds majority vote in parliament – fulminated on the apparent audacity of the court at daring to defy them, the sovereign elected representatives of the people. Or at least that is the ideal. The verdict is taken to mean the system reverts back to what was in place earlier – that is, the reinstatement of the Supreme Judicial Council headed by the Chief Justice, to advise the president of the republic in complaints against SC judges.


In his observation on the 16th amendment, Chief Justice S.K. Sinha criticised the military rule, the election commission, good governance, corruption, democracy, the national parliament, interference in the judiciary, and on several issues, leading the government to an uncomfortable situation.


As is his won’t, it was an outburst from the finance minister that served to really stir the hornet’s nest, when he said, “We’ll pass the amendment again in parliament and do it again and again. Let’s see what the judiciary can do.”


The way Muhith put it may have been a bit too cutting, yet he is standing on pretty firm legal ground with this. Looking at the constitution, nowhere does it say that a Supreme Court ruling is binding on parliament and there are several articles that suggest parliament remains the supreme lawmaker.


The High Court upheld the death sentence for two convicts while commuting the penalty of four others and acquitting two – all of whom were sentenced to death by a lower court for murdering Bishwajit Das in 2012. Death sentences of former Bangladesh Chhatra League activists Rafiqul Islam Shakil and Rajon Talukder were upheld for murdering Bishwajit – a case that created ripples of sensation back then. Previously sentenced to death, Mahfuzur Rahman Nahid, Emdadul Haque Emdad, GM Rasheduzzaman Shaon and  Noor-e-Alam Limon were given life imprisonment.


Rajon and Limon are now absconding. Md Saiful Islam and Qayum Mia Tipu are the ones acquitted in the case. On December 9, 2012, tailoring shop employee Biswajit Das was chopped to death by some Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) activists near Bahadur Shah Park in Old Dhaka during the opposition’s countrywide road blockade programme, in a shocking display of wanton, deranged brutality that shook the nation.


A week-long standoff at Brac University ended with university authorities meeting most of the demands placed on them by agitating students. The university on August 5 issued a circular to the effect that Registrar Muhammad Sahool Afzal had been sent off on the rather comical-sounding ‘long leave’ until the end of his contract, in effect removed without provision to return, the key plank in students’ demands over allegations of torture inflicted on a member of faculty.


Besides, Assistant Registrar Md Mahi Uddin and senior officer at the office of co-curricular activities Jabed Rasel–who allegedly accompanied the registrar during the “assault” on lecturer in the university’s department of law Farhaan Uddin Ahmed– resigned from their posts.


The university authorities also rescinded an earlier decision to part ways with Farhaan, whose appointment at the university was contractual. As his contract expired, he went to the registrar’s office to discuss it. This was July 30. It remains unclear what transpired at that meeting, to descend to the point of the trio of administrative officers physically attacking a teacher. The release did say the probe committee formed following the incident is continuing their investigation.

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