Battle of the Titans intensifies: Hold down please!
*** "But analysts say the country is facing its worst challenge now -- besides a major challenge for holding a free and fair election around end of next year on in early 2019 -- stemming from the bitterness and growing differences between the judiciary and executive branches." ***
The confrontational arguments over the verdict of Supreme Court declaring illegal constitution's 16th amendment have reached their peak this week after the Law Minister, other cabinet members and ruling party leaders including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have denounced the edict and Chief Justice S K Sinha who defends it steadfastly.
Now the battle is out of the court between the judiciary and parliament which was stripped of its power to appoint and impeach judges of the High Court and Supreme Court for various reasons. The judiciary bosses including the CJ took the legislature's stance as an aspersion on the freedom of judiciary and upheld the SC verdict by releasing its full text years after they adopted it.
But it has triggered a storm of protests by the executive and legislative authorities -- and now it threatens to transform into a full blown catastrophe -- that has set the two sides wide apart -- and perhaps pushed them to a point of o return.
Beyond the purview of law, Law Minister Anisul Haq, state attorneys and the CJ Sinha all appear to take the matter personally as an attempt to hurt each other and damage their respective prestige.
The situation has been made further gloomy by random remarks of the former CJs, senior judges and top attorneys whose own past is tainted with many controversial judgements including the 16th amendment to the constitution. A third parlance has been added to the controversy after the opposition party BNP chipped in with its own version regarding statements and arguments by the judiciary and executive, two of the three state organs with legislature being the third one.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier commenting on another bitter rundown between the CJ and the Law Minister had said that all three state organs are equally powerful and one cannot operate without cooperation or support of the others. So, she urged them all to get rid of bitterness and unnecessary attempt to bruise one another and instead help the government to run the country smoothly. But it seems none of them are ready to listen to the PM although they did not object to her opinion.
Besides law and justice -- and rights and privileges of the people of independent sovereign Bangladesh -- the ongoing feuding also have damaging impact on the politics which already has been littered with many confusions, divisions and acrimonies. BNP and its allies are now pointing fingers at the row gathering winds around the 16th amendment as an evidence of building pressure on the judiciary and arrogance of the executive which is now trying to restore powers of the parliament over the judges. While the government is trying to trounce the verdict, BNP Secretray General Mirza Fakhul Islam Alamgir on Saturday hailed it as a "historic" judgement.
Ruling Awami League leaders have come out with all force to destroy the CJ's ego, even by saying that Sinha was against Bangladesh's freedom. They also alleged that Sinha was a member of "Peace Committee" formed by the Pakistani occupation army during Bangladesh's War of Independence in 1971.
In response, Sinha asked them to stop creating controversies but he has not yet clearly rebuked them for their opinion. This gives rise to confusion among the ordinary people, with some people in the media has started asking what CJ Sinha would do now? The Awami League leaders say he has no option but to resign but Sinha so far shows no sign of stepping down.
Independent analysts say some "hidden" groups may be playing up the controversies for their own interest but they are yet to be clearly identified. They may be within the political ambit or from outside who intend to thwart democracy, peace and good governance in Bangladesh. These forces have always existed and come to the fore taking advantage of political ad administrative glitches. They act for themselves or for others who roll them out to hit certain targets.
Until recently, the executive and judiciary had been "goodly neighbours" without having disputed each other, at least on a public level. Legislature as it is manned by people from various interest groups and rivals in politics had always heard some noises but these did not threaten the country's smooth running as such.
But analysts say the country is facing its worst challenge now -- besides a major challenge for holding a free and fair election around end of next year on in early 2019 -- stemming from the bitterness and growing differences between the judiciary and executive branches.
Food Minister Qamrul Islam, himself a lawyer, has threatened to launch a movement against CJ Sinha unless he resigns by end of this month. He said hundreds of pro-government lawyers including from the apex court will join the movement.
So far, Sinha has kept his cool but if necessary he may also pull many lawyers on to his side, sources in the judiciary say. They also say any untoward incident or move to undermine the neutrality and independence of judiciary should be avoided under any circumstances,
Nevertheless, we hope PM Sheikh Hasina will intervene decisively and firmly into the "uneasy" matter before it goes out of hands. The ongoing controversy between Sinha and Haq has been fomenting for many months and now it has spilled out to a critical level. This should be contained right now and the best arbiter in this would be the prime minister.
Anis Ahmed is Executive Editor, The Daily Observer