The Supreme Court has said that its verdict punishing two Cabinet members for contempt is a warning for all over undermining the judiciary’s dignity.
Food Minister Md Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq have been found guilty by the apex court on Sunday for their remarks on a war crimes convict’s appeal hearing.
The eight-member bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has slapped a fine of Tk 50, 000 on each. If they don’t pay up within seven days, they will have to suffer a week’s imprisonment.
Speaking at a discussion on Mar 5, Qamrul called for a new bench that, in his view, should exclude the chief justice to hear Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali’s appeal.
Justice Sinha’s displeasure at the work of the International Crimes Tribunal’s investigators and prosecutors in the war crimes cases, including Mir Quasem’s one, had been interpreted by the minister as a ‘broad hint’ that the war criminal’s death penalty might not be upheld.
Mozammel had also criticised the chief justice at the same programme.
The verdict, which was given three days later on Mar 8, however, upheld the death penalty awarded to the Jamaat leader by the International Crimes Tribunal.
But before that, the chief justice along with all of the nine Appellate Division judges, summoned the two ministers for their comments.
The ministers later issued unconditional apologies and sought the court’s mercy.
But according to Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, the court rejected their petitions as it found the extent of their offences ‘far too much’.
Before announcing the verdict on Sunday, the chief justice said : “We, the judges of the top court, have evaluated everything meticulously. The reports (ran by media on the discussion where the comments were made) stated many other names. We did not draw proceedings against everyone.
“The contempt proceedings against the two ministers was done to send a message.”
Speaking to the media after the verdict, the attorney general elaborated it. “The message which the Appellate Division wanted to give was that, under no circumstances the judiciary’s dignity can be undermined.”
Asked whether the ministers can still hold offices after being convicted, Alam declined to comment and said as far as he knows the Constitution did not address the matter clearly.
“But it’s an ethical issue,” he said adding that it was up to the Cabinet to decide on the matter. – Agencies