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03 Jul 2017   12:53:18 PM   Monday BdST A- A A+ Print this E-mail this

SC scraps parliament`s newly-vested authority to sack judges

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 SC scraps parliament`s newly-vested authority to sack judges

The Supreme Court eventually scrapped parliament`s newly-vested authority to sack judges, capping what is seen as a legal battle between the judiciary and the legislative backed by the executive.

The apex court, headed by chief justice SK Sinha, delivered the judgment Monday in the crucial case that had invoked strings of debates between particularly the CJ and the lawmakers who had passed the 16th constitution amendment empowering themselves to unseat a judge through impeachment motion on charges of misconduct.

The Appellate Division upheld a High Court verdict that had outlawed parliament`s powers to impeach top-court judges. The seven-member full bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, turned down the state`s petition against the verdict that had declared the 16th amendment to the constitution illegal.

Passed in 2014, the amendment allowed Members of Parliament to remove judges on grounds of incompetence and misconduct. In November of the same year, nine Supreme Court lawyers filed a petition with the High Court challenging the legal basis of the amendment.  

The state then went to the Appellate Division to contest the HC decision.

On Monday, the Appellate Division full bench convened more than an hour late with the verdict on the matter of high national importance. Chief Justice Sinha delivered the verdict at 10:25am in a packed courtroom.

It expunged some of the observations made by the High Court in its verdict and unanimously rejected the state’s appeal.

Counsel Manzill Murshid, who represented the lawyers moving the petition against the 16th amendment, described the verdict as `historic`.

He told the media: "The court unanimously scrapped the state`s appeal. The law, allowing parliament to impeach top court judges, is now void. The 15th amendment to the Constitution, which protected the Supreme Judicial Council, has been upheld."

Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said he was disappointed by the top court`s decision. Asked whether the state will seek a review, he said, "We will let you know after discussing it with the law ministry and the government."

The AG does not think the verdict implies that the Supreme Judicial Council will now be responsible for removing judges.

"In my opinion, the constitutional provisions annulled by the parliament will not be reinstated automatically. I think there is a (constitutional) vacuum. The court cannot be a replacement for the House," said the chief law officer of the state.

During the hearings, which started on May 8 this year, the Appellate Division heard opinions of 10 Supreme Court lawyers as amici curiae or `friends of the court`. All of them, bar one, had favoured the High Court ruling.

The High Court verdict had drawn sharp reaction from political circles. Even MPs walked out of parliament in protest. But, the beleaguered opposition BNP supported the court’s ruling.

There had been an altercation between the attorney-general and the chief justice. To pacify the lawmakers, Law Minister Anisul Huq at the time had described the High Court verdict as ‘unconstitutional’.

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