The state of Bangladesh judiciary

by Priyo Australia | April 1, 2011 1:59 am

The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) recently made a sector -wise survey and found that the Bangladesh Judiciary is the top most corrupted sector followed by the law enforcement agency and the land administration.
On 23rd December, 2010, the TIB household survey report said that the Judiciary is the most corrupt service sector. The Berlin-based corruption watchdog said at the auditorium of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), Dhaka, “the High Court is where exchange of kickback takes place the most”. The report says 88 per cent households of the country have been victims to judicial corruption, and each household provided Tk 12,761 on average to the High Court, Tk 6,598 to the Magistrate’s Court and Tk 6,178 to the Judge’s Court.
It along with other sources claim that people are increasingly losing their trust in judiciary, as the current regime has already reshaped it and started using it as a tool for dominance and control. A society is bound to crumble if its judiciary-the place for justice-suffers from trust-deficit and becomes an apparatus for injustice.

Gross HR violations
According to various reports, gross violation of human rights (HR), clemency to the convicted criminals belonging to the ruling alliance, and oppression of the political opponents through false and concocted cases are some of the clear manifestations of the government-controlled judicatory in Bangladesh. “The state of Judiciary in Bangladesh is turning into a glasshouse and may crumble at any time” opined former Chief Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury while expressing his deep concern over the government’s recent amendment demeaning the power of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Different national and international bodies including the World Bank have questioned this amendment. “It looks that a section of people [belonging to the ruling alliance] is beyond the jurisdiction of judiciary” Chowdhury added (The Daily Star, 15 April 2010). The current precarious state of the Bangladesh judiciary has been depicted in a recent issue of the Journal of Asian Culture and History published from Canada:
“The common practice in Bangladesh is not to take any legal action against the criminals of ruling party or alliance, while often harsh legal actions are taken against the opposition leaders and activists though sometimes there might have no evidence of corruption against them. The legal apparatus in Bangladesh therefore largely serves the interest of the ruling elites, and provides a powerful tool for them to abate and crush the political opponents” (Vol. 2, No. 2, July 2010, p. 64).

Control of judiciary
Since Bangladesh gained its independence in 1971, the country has experienced intermittently a fragile democratic culture and sustained periods of military rule. Throughout that time, however, Bangladesh has also had a very vibrant civil society and a robust and independent judiciary. In the last two years, as confirmed by various credible sources, the Awami League (AL) regime has: (a) compromised the independence of the judiciary by appointing incompetent and partisan Judges to the High Court division of the Supreme Court; (b) re-organised the benches with their active political supporters in the most important writ and bail benches along with the Appellate Division by appointing less competent judges by superseding other senior judges which was not the custom of the highest judiciary of the country; and (c) made regular undue intervention in judicial decisions through the politically appointed Attorney General’s office and that of Public Prosecutors’.
The recent appointment of the chief justice and twelve other judges in the High Court with their known partisanship is widely regarded as an attack on the country’s judicial system. Such large-scale political appointment in the judiciary is unprecedented in Bangladesh. Justice Khairul Hoque was selected as the chief justice by superseding two senior Justices. First thing he did after joining office (before even being sworn in) was to hang up a picture of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the office-an incident never done before since Mujib’s death. This proves how devoted loyalty. The High Court benches have been restructured in such a way that all key responsibilities, such as power to hear writ petitions and to award stay orders, are largely with known pro-AL judges. It has been reported that the government has taken steps to appoint hundreds of judges in the lower courts (The Daily Star, 25 April 2010). As reported by BBC: “Past AL-background, political loyalty to the current regime and hostility to the opposition parties are the key yardsticks by which the government is making all appointments and giving promotion and tenure” (Naya Diganto, 23 March 2010).
A report appeared in the national media showing two lawyers breaking the office of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice in 2006. They have been “rewarded” the government by selecting them as judges of the Supreme Court. In another case, when a person with an alleged murder case charge was selected as a Supreme Court judge and the media disclosed his record, the power that be forced the court to withdraw the charges against him. This clearly shows the colour of these judges.
Regarding the nation’s only Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus’s removal from his Grameen Bank, the Economists recently wrote, “Bangladesh’s courts have become increasingly supine when it comes to the government. It would be a brave judge, willing to forfeit promotion, say, who would dare give an order in support of Mr Yunus’s position.”
This government has formed a committee under the Home Ministry to withdraw what it calls “politically motivated cases.” The idea is to free those AL members charged while retaining charges against the opposition politicians. So far, following the committee’s recommendation, 4,687 cases have been withdrawn, and another 516 cases have also been recommended for withdrawal.
The state of the judiciary has reached such a deplorable state that no court in Bangladesh Currently no court in Bangladesh dares to accept any case against the cadres of the ruling party regardless of the crimes they are involved in.
While some traces of this practice dates back to successive regimes, it has become a common phenomenon and further degenerated in recent days. Some people apprehend that justice for the political opponents is just a mere dream in Bangladesh.
Politicisation of the judiciary and its nexus of corruption are not simple but a fatal disease for the nation. If this key institution crumbles, it would take a long time for the nation to raise itself from the ashes.
The author is an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His contact:[1]

Dr. M. Saidul Islam | original source at[2]


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