The newly published code of conduct for lower court judges has raised the concern of some legal practitioners in the country, while others praised it.
The government published the code of conduct, titled “Bangladesh Judicial Service (Discipline) Rules 2017,” through gazette notification on Monday following months of deliberation that prompted several deadline extensions by the Supreme Court.
Former law minister Shafique Ahmed appreciated the fact that the rules had been published despite the long delay.
“It is positive that the gazette has been published,” he told reporters at his office on Tuesday. “This will ease the tension between the executive and the judiciary.”
Senior lawyer Barrister M Amir-ul Islam, meanwhile, expressed concern over the new judicial service rules – particularly the one putting the Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission under the Ministry of Law's purview.
“By putting the Judicial Service Commission under the Ministry of Law, the government has put court judges at the same level as government employees, which is unfortunate,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
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The new rules maintain the president's authority of appointment, administration and removal of lower court judges; the president may consult the Supreme Court to make these decisions.
However, they also include the Ministry of Law to implement said decisions.
Amir-ul, who was a member of the drafting committee of Bangladesh Constitution, said he was surprised that the government had made such a move.
“The court is a constitutional institution, and implementation of any decision regarding the court has been bestowed upon the president by the constitution. The Ministry of Law cannot take up a task that has been entrusted to the president,” he said.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Zainul Abedin, who is also a BNP leader, said the rules were in complete contradiction of the spirit of the 1999 verdict in the historic State vs Masdar Hossain case – also known as the judiciary separation case – that led to the formulation and publication of the code of conduct in the first place.
“In order to ensure proper court operations, the Supreme Court is supposed to have authority of the lower courts. With this gazette, the Supreme Court has lost all control over the subordinate courts,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
However, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the Supreme Court had not lost any power over the lower courts; in fact, it had gained more authority.
“The rules say if the Supreme Court does not agree with the president and the ministry on an issue, the Supreme Court's opinion will get priority in the decision-making process,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
About implementing the same rules for both court judges and public service employees, the law minister said a difference in rules for the judiciary and the public administration would not be acceptable to anyone.
The law minister, along with Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, also expressed relief that the issue of judicial service rules had finally been resolved.
“It was getting embarrassing for me,” he told reporters. “Finalizing the disciplinary rules for lower court judges required the time, which is why I asked for extension from the Supreme Court again and again.”
He echoed the law minister's statement that the new rules increased the Supreme Court's authority in issues relating to the lower courts.
Here is the gazette notification for perusal