Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Lord, we beg to differ

Yes, there are many grand examples of the Supreme Court serving the nation in times of crises. However, there are just as many examples of when it did not, Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam writes as he opposes Bangladesh chief justice Mohammad Ruhul Amin's Saturday's statement: "The Supreme Court played a role in the past at critical junctures of the nation. It is doing so at the present and will also do so in the future to pull the nation out of mire."
"May we suggest with all due respect your high office demands and deserves, that if the Supreme Court had played such a role in the recent past then we would not be where we are today. Why after 15 years of democracy, however flawed, we needed an emergency to bring about the reforms that the nation needs so badly, which regrettably are becoming increasingly doubtful?" Mahfuz Anam asks.
"Permit us to recall the writ petition challenging the legality of President Iajuddin Ahmed assuming the post of the chief adviser, clearly violating the constitution that specified the steps necessary to be taken before the president may assume that crucial post. Unquestionably the subject of the writ petition was one of the most important there could be before the higher courts. Not only as an interpretation of the constitution but also as a crucial matter facing the nation at that moment in time, the writ petition merited a hearing. The hearing on the writ petition was proceeding and the honourable judges of the High Court Bench had announced that they would pronounce their ruling the following day. But just when they were about to do so, a note from the then chief justice, hand carried by the attorney general, informed the judges concerned that the whole proceeding had been stayed. It is indeed very rare that a CJ stays a hearing while it is in progress. Rarer still is the staying of the case when the bench was about to pronounce its ruling on it. We all recall the chaos that the stay order led to, including the converging on the chief justice's chamber, vandalism, burning of cars on the court premises, and the arrest warrants against eminent lawyers. All of that left the judiciary tainted and the image of the CJ tarnished.
"Tell us My Lord, was that an example of saving the nation from a crisis or throwing it into a deeper one. A proper judgment on that writ petition could have saved our democracy from entering the current emergency phase with its concomitant dangers."
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