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Constitutional amendment hearing heats up

  • Published at 11:40 pm May 9th, 2017
Constitutional amendment hearing heats up
The ongoing rift between the judiciary and the executive branch of the government over a number of constitutional issues became more apparent Tuesday during a heated exchange between the attorney general and the chief justice. The exchange took place during the appeal hearing of the 16th amendment of the Constitution which started on Monday. A five-member bench led by the chief justice started hearing the appeal. Earlier, a High Court bench scrapped the amendment, which empowers the Parliament to remove Supreme Court judges for incapacity or misconduct. At one stage of the exchange, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said he had no confidence in Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha in relation to the case. He also threatened to withdraw himself from the case if all existing seven Appellate Division judges were not involved in the appeal hearing. In a disapproving voice, the chief justice cautioned the attorney general, saying: “You do not understand where you are taking this matter … you do not understand the consequences involved.” Justice Sinha demanded to know whether the attorney general was trying to undermine the court. In reply, Mahbubey Alam said he was doing no such thing. Appellate Division judges Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, who is currently abroad, and Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, who was ill, were the two judges not on the bench. After the day's proceedings, the court adjourned the hearing until May 21.

Government petitions

At a press briefing later, Mahbubey Alam said the government had filed two petitions. “The High Court in its verdict scrapping the amendment said a large number of MPs have criminal records. We requested the appeals court to provide a list of names. The court said they will entertain the plea during further hearings,” he said. In the second petition, the government sought two weeks time so that the absent judges could take part in the hearing and the prosecution prepare for it. About his remarks on quitting the case, he said: “I did say that I may quit if all of the judges are not involved in it as the hearing is on a constitutional matter.” When asked what his course of action will be if all seven judges were not present in the next hearing, the attorney general replied: “We will see what happens.” He said on the first day of hearing, the chief justice had said that all seven judges would hear the matter. “But today he said that a five-member bench will be hearing. So I responded that if all the judges are not present, I will have to quit.” The court said all seven judges would join in the hearing during the submission of arguments. The chief justice said the hearing will be swiftly conducted since there is no law on impeachment of judges.
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