Clearing the way for investigation into corruption allegation against former Appellate Division Justice Md Zainul Abedin, a High Court division bench on Tuesday said no one is immune from criminal prosecution.
The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Sahidul Karim also came up with a set of observations disposing of a rule issued earlier seeking explanation as to why the Supreme Court administration's letter to stop probe into the graft allegation against the former Appellate Division judge should not be declared illegal.
In its observations, the court said: "The impugned letter is amenable to judicial review as it was issued by the office of the Appellate Division under its administrative capacity and the rule is, therefore, quite maintainable."
It further said: "In issuing the letter, the relevant authority has taken into consideration some extraneous and irrelevant circumstances which have rendered the bona fides of the said authority in question."
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Noting that the letter is a mere official communication made by the office of the Appellate Division under its administrative capacity, the High Court bench said it can in no way be regarded as the opinion of the Supreme Court.
"The impugned letter had impaired as well as tarnished the image and dignity of the highest court of the land in the estimation of the public at large," observed the court.
It also said: "The letter though tends to give a massage that a retired judge of the SC is immune from criminal prosecution but in fact no one is immune as such except the honourable President and that too during his term of office."
The HC bench termed the Anti-Corruption Commission's delay in investigation against Zainul Abedin as not satisfactory as it failed to complete the inquiry process in the last seven years.
It also asked the ACC or the authority to exercise extra cautious and vigilant while conducting inquiry against an SC retired judge of keeping in view the dignity and prestige of the judiciary.
On October 31, the High Court concluded the hearing on the rule and kept the order as curia advisari vult (CAV).
Earlier on October 9, the High Court issued the rule after Supreme Court lawyer M Badiuzzaman Tafadar brought the matter to the court's notice.
The Supreme Court’s Registrar General, Appellate Division Additional Registrar Arunava Chakraborty, the ACC Chairman and Justice Zainul Abedin had been asked to reply to the rule within 10 days.
The ACC in July, 2010 sent a notice to Justice Zainul Abedin asking him to submit his wealth statement to the national anti-graft body.
On March 2 last, the ACC in a letter sought necessary papers from the Supreme Court to start investigation into the graft allegation against the former judge.
In reply, the Supreme Court sent a letter to the ACC on April 28 saying it would not be proper for the ACC to take any kind of action against a former judge. The letter was signed by Arunava Chakraborty.