The Constitution of Bangladesh, in Section 96 (6), states that ” If, after making the inquiry, the Council reports to the President that in its opinion the Judge has ceased to be capable of properly performing the functions of his office or has been guilty of gross misconduct, the President shall, by order, remove the Judge from office.” The Council refers to the Supreme Judicial Council, as defined in Section 96 (3). By the provisions of Section 96 (6), all judges of the Supreme Court, in the High Court as well as the Appellate Division, may be removed.
Mizanur Rahman Khan has been consistently writing about legal matters in Prothom Alo. In his latest article, he pinpoints an extremely important trend in our highest court. In 1999-2000, when H. M. Iqbal was prancing around the streets of Dhaka with six-shooters in tow, Barrister Shamsuddin Chowdhury was Iqbal’s valued lawyer. As reward for his service, he was appointed to the bench and made a judge. BNP came to power, and when Shamsuddin Chowdhury’s review period came up, they decided that Bangladesh could survive without Mr. Chowdhury on the bench, and removed him. Awami League portrayed this as the judicial equivalent of the recent earthquake that struck Haiti. The matter came in front of the Court in due course, and served by its usual incompetent legal team, the government lost the case. Long story short, Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury is back on the bench. We can look forward to having him on our bench until he reaches retirement age.
However, being in the bench is really no use unless you get to use the fantastic amount of power at your disposal. Shamsuddin Chowdhury used it by making the charges filed against Iqbal disappear while Iqbal was still absconding. Iqbal was allowed to get bail directly from the High Court, without first surrendering to the lower courts. So far, this magical power was only reserved for those like Basundhara boss Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, who has Home Minister Sahara Khatun’s legal practice working for him. Then, the Appellate Division got into the act said that any lawyer or judge who did this, who let any individual get bail without surrendering to a lower court first, would be in contempt of court.
Now, normally, an order from the Appellate Court is mandatory and binding for lower High Court judges. What did Shamsuddin Chowdhury do? He went ahead and promptly reversed the convictions against Joy and Jalal Alamgir, to whom congratulations are due for getting out of the CTG’s bogus charges, even though they also had not surrendered to the lower court. Normally, contempt proceedings would be instituted against Shamsuddin Chowdhury the next day. Perhaps even the aforementioned Supreme Judicial Council would come into play. But don’t bet on it.
Don’t bet on it because Shamsuddin Chowdhury knows how things work in Bangladesh. Here’s Justice Chowdhury threatening to file a case against the ACC for filing corruption cases against Sheikh Hasina. And here he is quashing all cases against Dear Leader. In Awam League’s Bangladesh, he seems to have a bright future ahead of him. But if this government won’t impeach him, a future one must.