Dhaka, Sep 22 (Just News): Former Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha said, “The Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) appeared to me blind for retaining power and her only object was how to control the Supreme Court for coming to power in the next election”.
“Her approach was unethical and unconstitutional, but I guessed, she kept her blind eyes towards what is right or wrong”, the Former Chief Justice added.
Justice Sinha made this comment in his book titled “A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy” which is available on Amazon.
In the book Justice Sinha wrote, “On July 1, 2017, in the morning I got a call on my private mobile phone and the caller identified himself as the military secretary to the President and requested me to come to Bang Bhaban for a talk with the President at 7:30 PM as desired. I was a bit surprised that the military secretary or any other high-level official had never contacted me directly earlier. Previously on all occasions, the military secretary contacted the Registrar General and then the Registrar General brought the matter to my knowledge and subsequently conveyed my opinion to the government. Even when I was in the High Court Division, the military secretary had contacted the Registrar General requesting him to ask me for a cup of tea with the President. This time I noticed an exception. I had very cordial relationship with the President.
Going back to the Military Secretary’s call, subsequently I got a text message from him from phone number: 01730090095. The text message read: “Assalamu Alaikum, Sir, with reference to our mobile conversation yesterday, I am reminding you once again about your call on with Honorable President today at Bangabhaban at 1930 hours. With profound regards. Major General Md Sarwar Hossain, Military Secretary to President” I was very much anxious on receiving the above text message. Never had I received any direct invitation from someone of such a high level. After I became the Chief Justice, all communications were made through my Registry. Either it was through the Registrar General or my private secretary.
I checked my office whether there was any invitation from the Bang Bhaban for the evening. I was told that the office had not received any such invitation. I could not understand why the invitation was made so secretly. One of my closest aides told me that it might be that the program was arranged secretly. Whatever explanation offered to me, I could not be satisfied.
The Military Secretary received me at the porch and took me to his room. It confused me further. Every time I was taken to a special room reserved for the purpose. I visited many rooms of the Bang Bhaban, even the inner residential section as a private guest. There are some waiting rooms in Bang Bhaban. Besides the President’s Office on the ground floor, there are rooms for officers. I was hesitating whether I should sit in the room of the President’s Military Secretary or not. I felt insulted and was also thinking of turning back instead of waiting there.
The Military Secretary was requesting me to have a seat. The room was so poorly arranged that if I sat in the sofa, then just in front of me the MS would be sitting in his chair separated from me only by his desk. It was not at all appropriate for a Chief Justice to sit there. The Military Secretary appeared to me very anxious and sometimes he went out and came back and requested me to sit. He wanted to serve tea or coffee. I said, “No, thanks.” Sometimes he wanted to talk with me.
I sat for a moment and then stood up and started reading the names of former military secretaries displayed on the wall. I wanted to know the name of one who was posted there during the emergency period. I got the name and noted it down. This way I passed about 45 minutes. My mental condition at that time was very anxious. Then I was taken to the President’s room. I was stunned on seeing the persons present there. Besides the President, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Law Minister Anisul Haque and Attorney General Mahbubey Alam were present.
After exchanging wishes, we took our seats. The Prime Minister raised the point regarding the Sixteenth Amendment judgment. What I had suspected proved true. I told the Prime Minster in a very polite manner that on a previous occasion also all of us sat together in that particular room when a deadlock was created due to non-cooperation of the Ministry. I could not transfer any honest officer to Dhaka and Chittagong and District Judges to the district courts.
I also could not execute any modernization project of the judiciary, and I had to face embarrassing position in public meetings due to the telephonic pressures created by the ministers on the courts for making favorable orders. The meeting yielded no result. I pointed out to her that a deadlock condition persisted regarding the postings of District Judges, Chief Judicial Magistrates and other responsible posts in different districts. The ministry recommends corrupt and disputed officers for those posts. Many of the responsible posts are lying vacant for more than six months.
The Law Minister started making up totally false stories even ignoring his commitments made to me earlier. Then I drew the attention of the Prime Minister that people like Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, and Prof. Dr. Abul Barakat spoke against the Law Ministry’s telephonic direction in such a manner that finding no other alternative I assured them that there was no such incident since my assumption of the office of the Chief Justice. Now the lower judiciary was totally under the Ministry’s control and if the superior judiciary is also surrendered to the government there would be anarchy in the country. The Law Ministry says that they did not interfere, not to speak of directing any officer for granting bail. I had made some enquiries on getting complaints and produced the papers for the Prime Minister.
I stated that if this process is allowed it would be very difficult on my part to manage the judiciary with dignity. I even told her that I had asked the Minister that if he had any personal interest in a case in respect of any accused, he should not allow the officers of the Ministry to give direction over telephone. I also pointed out that whenever a proposal for transfer of an officer to Dhaka comes to me, I made enquiries about the officer and when I ascertained that the officer did not possess a good reputation, I suggested that he be accommodated in the Ministry. The Prime Minister simply said, making requests over the phone is not proper and the proposal of the Chief Justice was good. I told the Prime Minister that all the time the officers of the Law Ministry were directing the Magistrates and Sessions Judges for granting bails even to veteran criminals.
I candidly told the Prime Minister that I had hinted to the Law Minister that if Article 116 is restored to its original position there would be no difficulty in resolving the disciplinary and removal mechanism of the judges in the higher judiciary, because eighty percent of the people have to go to the lower judiciary and it is our highest responsibility to bring some discipline to our lower judiciary. In the lower judiciary a dual administration is operating creating a total deadlock and if the higher judiciary is left with the Executive, public perception of the judiciary would suffer profoundly.
The Prime Minister told me that Article 116 cannot be restored because Bangabandhu himself changed it with the Fourth Amendment. When I got this firm view from the Prime Minister regarding Article 116, I wanted to know from her how the judiciary could be handled and controlled. She advised me that the situation should be resolved through mutual discussions. I knew that the Prime Minister has a soft corner for the Law Secretary without knowing his real character, because he has acquired the quality of convincing one within a short period of time, but I refrained from disclosing this and told her that under the present set up it was not at all possible for resolving any difference mutually, because all the time the Law Ministry wanted to push corrupt officers into responsible posts with a view to serving their purpose.
The Prime Minister requested me to somehow give the verdict in favor of the government. I told her that even if I express opinion in favor of the government, there would not be any certainty that the High Court’s judgment would be set aside, because we had not discussed the matter. Our opinions would be disclosed just before the pronouncement of the judgment. So, aside from myself, there were six other judges. I don’t know about their opinions. The Prime Minister, the Law Minister and the Attorney General were repeatedly pressing me to give my opinion alone in favor of the government, even if the other judges gave their opinions against the government.
When I was unmoved, the Prime Minster lost her temper. Then abruptly she expressed her dissatisfaction towards me stating that she had all information’s regarding me. The first point she raised was that why I declined to furnish information to the Durniti Daman Commission in reply to its letter regarding Justice Md.Jaynul Abedin. She stated that this judge submitted report in his judicial probe in favor of the then government regarding the 21st August incident post judicial inquiry. He was a diehard pro- BNP judge and that due to Supreme Court’s report he could not be prosecuted regarding corruption. Her second charge was that why I delivered judgment in respect of Muslim Cotton Mills of Gazipur in favor of A.K. Azad. He is a corrupt businessman. I was bewildered on hearing such charges as if she was harboring the view that the Appellate Division is an organ of her government.
The Prime Minister appeared to me blind for retaining power and her only object was how to control the Supreme Court for coming to power in the next election. Her approach was unethical and unconstitutional, but I guessed, she kept her blind eyes towards what is right or wrong.
The Attorney General was not only pressurizing me but was also making entreaties to change my mind. He reminded me that I had delivered so many extraordinary judgments that the government would remember me forever. But for one judgment I should not give up all my achievements. I was very offended on hearing the entreaties of the Attorney General but controlled my annoyance.
Though unethical, the Prime Minister and the Law Minister could request me for political reasons, but the position of the Attorney General was completely different. The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the State and it was always his duty to remain impartial. He is not the Attorney General of the government only, rather in the true sense he is the “Attorney-General for Bangladesh.”
All the time I found the President was silent, making one or two comments only. The matter reached a point of heated debate. But I told the Prime Minister that she would not be able to show any example in the world, including Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, where the Chief Justice had voluntarily offered to resign. But I was the only one who wanted to step down and had informed her when I had raised the issue that I was handicapped by the hand of the Law Ministry in all matters relating to posting of any honest officer in a responsible post. And since the President was right before us, I wanted to step down at that very moment if she insisted that I express my opinion in favor of the government. The Prime Minister then said why you would resign. Whatever might be the result of the appeal, I should continue till the date of my retirement.
That evening the meeting was so secretly done that we were served with only tea and some light refreshments and though it got to around 11:30 PM we were not served with dinner because it was such a sensitive matter that possibly with a view to maintaining the secrecy, no dinner was arranged. I was hungry and tired, and I could not even keep my balance. The Prime Minister then stood up and said, the Chief Justice had not eaten anything, and he had his court in the morning. We then departed after the Prime Minister’s departure.
On my way home I felt like my vehicle was on my head and I was sitting upside down. My head was spinning, and I was feeling faint. I could not realize when I reached my residence.
After my vehicle stopped at the porch, Salem, my long-time driver called out, “Sir, get out of the car.” Then I realized that I had reached home. Somehow, I strolled upstairs and retired to my bed taking a glass of water. Reading my body language and seeing my face, my wife helped me change my clothes and did not request that I eat my dinner.