Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury, a retired High Court judge, who moved for taking part in an appeal hearing before the Appellate Division as a defense lawyer on behalf of war crimes convict and Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali, withdrew himself from the defence team yesterday.After coming out from the courtroom, retired Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury told reporters that he was bound to withdrew him from tasking part in the appeal hearing following tremendous hostile environment.
“Due to the tremendous hostile environment I have bound to withdraw myself from this case proceeding,” Chowdhury said.
Earlier, on February 10 Justice Chowdhury took part in the second days hearing of the appeal filed by war crimes death-row convict and Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali against the tribunal verdict that had awarded him death penalty for crimes against humanity committed during the War of Liberation in 1971.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam opposed his involvement in the war crimes case saying that it would be unethical, if Justice Nozrul, who retired as a HC judge a few months ago, would take part in the hearing as a defense lawyer. Because, Justice Chowdhury is still now receiving the state facilities by living in a government residence and using a car and gunman of the government till now, the chief law officer of the state said.
However, the retired judge Justice Chowdhury read out the paper book before the apex court on February 10.
Pointing his finger to the retired Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury, Chief Justice SK Sinha said that the sitting and retired judges who enjoy state facilities would abide by their code of conduct.
On February 11, law minister Anisul Huq at the secretariat said that a code of conduct both for the sitting and retired judges of the Supreme Court is needed.
Upon these circumstances, Justice Chowdhury came before the apex court on behalf of Mir Quasem Ali.
While the five-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha started the third days hearing on the appeal of Mir Quasem Ali the retired Justice told the court ‘sorry my lord’.
“Two other senior lawyers will conduct the case proceedings before the apex court. I want to withdraw myself from this case proceeding,” defence counsel Justice Chowdhury said.
Do you want to withdraw yourself from the case, the chief justice SK Sinha asked Justice Nozrul.
Then, he said, “Yes my lord.”
After that the chief justice said, ‘Okayed’ and adjourned the appeal hearing till today (Tuesday) after continuing the hearing for sometimes.
After coming out from the court, Justice Chowdhury said, “As a retired and lawyer I have rights to take part in the appeal hearing of the case. Practicing law by me is not against the constitution and ethics, he added.
“I went on retirement on December 12 last year since then I have been conducting some cases proceedings before the apex court. I also stood against the attorney general in several other cases (after retirement) but no one raised question over their moral or legality. I stood for Mir Quasem abiding by all laws and constitutional provisions,” the former HC judge said.
As per Section 99 of Article 2A (1) of the Constitution, a judge of the High Court Division can practise as a lawyer in the Appellate Division after retirement.
However, attorney general Mahbubey Alam welcomed Justice Chowdhury for his decision not to represent the war crimes convict Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali’s appeal hearing.
In response to a question, the chief law officer of the state said that there was no pressure was created from the government to Justice Chowdhury for his withdrawal from representing Mir Quasem Ali.
On other hand, Khandaker Ayesha Khatun, wife of Mir Quasem Ali, in a press release alleged that retired Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury was bound to withdraw himself from taking in the hearing of her husband appeal following the state intervention.
Soon after his taking part in the hearing of the appeal, the attorney general Mahbubey Alam started personal attack so that he could refrain from taking part in the hearing. The law minister was also followed attorney general in this regard.
“We are apprehending in getting the justice following the state intervention indecently in the appeal hearing,” press release said.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court lawyer Eunus Ali Akond yesterday filed a writ petition with the High Court seeking restriction on retired HC judges from practicing law at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
The petition also prayed to the HC to scrap the provision of the constitution that permitted the retired HC judges to practice law after their retirement.
Citing the petition, Akond said although 1972 constitution restricted the retired HC judges from practicing law in the apex court, but in an amendment in 1978 the then Ziaur Rahman permitted the retired HC judges to practice law.
Under Section 33 of the 15th amendment, the retired HC judges are permitted to practice law which is contradictory to the 1972 constitution.
He said two retired HC judges – Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Shahidul Islam – are practicing law in the SC although they are enjoying the state facilities, which is against the 1972 constitution.
“I will move before the court for hearing on the petition next week,” Akond said.