1. Bangladesh Supreme Court is imposing a new sort of blasphemy fear in our society. They just jailed an editor for six months and a reporter for a month and fined financial penalty to additional others for reporting some facts which the court even did not try to refute as false. Courts stand was like this, ” be it fact or truth, as long as we six men feel someone has written something which we consider harmful to our image, we shall punish him/ her. And there will be no appeal to this verdict because there is no court above us in this land”.
2. The report in vernacular Daily Amar Desh quoted a senior lawyer and ex justice, Mr TH Khan, as ” Chamber Judge Means Stay (of High Court Order)” as the title . The report chronicled the spate of cases where this chamber Judge Mojammel Hossain, acting on the plea of government’s lawyers, blindly stayed all high court orders without any exception. Cases he stayed included high court rules to cancel police remand ( which means police torture in Bangladesh) although there are previous high court ruling discouraging ‘Police Remand’. The person Daily Amardesh quoted was present in the court as a lawyer. Court did not bother asking him a question. The court did not bother discuss the facts whether indeed chamber judge means stay or not. The Supreme Court did not bother/ dare go into that detail because they knew all what Amar Desh published was true.
3. In recent time this Supreme court, i.e. the appellate division of Bangladesh high court shamelessly sides with the group that rules the country. Even before this government came to power, the Supreme Court happily played a subordinate role to the then Army Chief and de-facto ruler, General Moeen U Ahmed. Most high court rules in favor of politicians/ democratic activists used to be stayed by the Chamber Judge of Supreme Court or over-ruled by the full appellate division.
The court’s selective and harsh punishment for Mr Mahmudur Rahman raises the question whether Supreme Court did this to uphold the dignity of the judiciary or please the government . For publishing reports of corruption by government officials and PM’s son’s alleged involvement in one such case, this editor drew the ire of the ruling party. Because Mr Mahmudur rahman is already under fire from the government, legalizing and prolonging his incarceration is a great gift to the government from this activist Supreme Court. One can say that this appellate division may be more angry at this editor for writing about the irregularities and corruption in government highup, than undermining the Supreme court. If undermining the court was the main intention of the verdict, the could definitely would have punished Justice TH Khan ( Who was quoted by Amar Desh as ‘Chamber Judge means Stay…) who was present in the court throughout the proceedings. Or they would have summoned and punished ex Chief Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury, who compared our judiciary with glasshouse in a public meeting few weeks later. Or they could also have punished Daily Prothom Alo and it’s Deputy editor Mizanur Rahman Khan who undermined the image of Supreme Court by publishing a well researched and very truthful report about the pathetic educational/ moral qualification and integrity of the political appointees in nation’s high court.
4. The person named in the report was Chamber Judge Mojammel Hossain. The defamation of the court was decided after judging the report against this chamber Judge Mojammel Hossain. Shamelessly for Bangladesh supreme court, this man was one of the six judges who sentenced Mr Mahmudur Rahman. This very fact defies the basic law of justice and makes the verdict of Bangladesh Supreme court a farce. Here the court is no longer a neutral arbiter, they are one of the two parties involved. And one party is sentencing the other party. Another fact also makes this sentence unfair is that the person found guilty has no place to appeal. This is also against any basic tenant of jurisprudence.
5. Bangladesh’s Supreme court may claim that they are doing this to protect the image and dignity of the judiciary. But in fact they have done most harm to the image of our high judiciary by handing this verdict. When a Cfief Justice has to say to an editor that he can not publish the truth for the sake of the image of the court, the Chief Justice inadvertently exposes the real image of the court.
6. Fame/ respect can not be enforced by punishing one—beating other, it has to be earned by being loyal to the truth. A court’s image can not be more important than the truth, the courts job is to uphold the truth. The more our court will shout about it’s own image, the more image crisis it will suffer from. Although our Supreme court feels they are clothed in solid shrouds of high image, like that Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of Emperor with no clothes, this court is, in fact, more exposed after this verdict.