The discussion on who is going to be appointed as the next chief justice has taken centre stage since President Abdul Hamid accepted Surendra Kumar Sinha’s resignation earlier this week.
With a new chief justice still to be appointed, questions were raised as to whether Sinha’s resignation had caused any constitutional void.
The constitution states the need for a prime minister, a parliament and a chief justice in the country, although it does not specify for how long these can remain empty or void.
When Sinha took over as the 21st chief justice of Bangladesh on January 17, 2015, he became the first non-Muslim to hold the post in the Muslim-majority country. His early steps to run the judiciary received praise, but he later became mired in controversy.
Sinha faced the media more than any of his predecessors and his statements at times embarrassed the government and the ruling party. Towards the end of his career, corruption allegations were brought against him.
Sinha left Bangladesh for Australia on October 13 on a 39-day period of authorized leave. He failed to return home after his leave ended and instead became the only chief justice in Bangladesh’s history to resign from his post, sending his resignation letter from Canada.
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Supreme Court Bar Association President Zainul Abedin said as per the constitution, the president will decide on the next chief justice.
Asked about the constitutional process of such an appointment, Dr Shahdeen Malik, a constitutional expert, pointed out that the constitution “only mentions that the president will appoint the chief justice”.
“The Constitution only says that there will be a prime minister, a parliament, [and] a chief justice in the country. It does not say anything about the duration of the void,” Malik said.
When Attorney General Mahbubey Alam was asked about the rules to appoint the chief justice, he pointed to the constitution. “The constitutional provision is that the president will appoint the chief justice (so) it depends on him as to who he will consult for that,” he said.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said there was no need to do anything new in this situation.
“The president will appoint the chief justice when he wants. As per Section 95
of the Constitution, appointing the chief justice is the president’s jurisdiction,” he said.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune