Two former law ministers of the previous Awami League and BNP governments yesterday criticised Finance Minister AMA Muhith's for his comment that parliament would pass the 16th constitutional amendment time and again.
Ex-minister Shafique Ahmed said Muhith might have made the comment out of emotion. Terming the remark horrifying, another former minister Moudud Ahmed called upon the government to avoid any conflict with the judiciary.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, former AL ministers Shafique and Abdul Matin Khasru said the Supreme Court's verdict on the constitutional amendment was binding on the government under article 112 of the constitution.
However, Law Minister Anisul Huq has refrained from making any comment on the verdict since the apex court released the full text of the judgment on Tuesday.
The SC scrapped the constitutional amendment that restored parliament's power to remove apex court judges on grounds of misconduct or incapacity.
The Jatiya Sangshad had passed the amendment in September 2014. It abolished the decades-old Supreme Judicial Council, led by the chief justice.
Expressing serious resentment over the verdict, Muhith on Friday said they would amend the charter again to re-empower parliament to remove SC judges.
“Yes, we'll pass the constitutional [16th] amendment in parliament again and we'll do it continuously. Let's see how far the judiciary goes. Because I think the judiciary's position is untenable. Will they interfere with people's representatives? We appoint them as judges,” he told reporters after attending a programme in Sylhet.
Khasru, who had been the law minister from 1996-2001, said it was Muhith's “personal remark”.
He said they were aggrieved and hurt by some remarks made by the apex court.
“The political remarks made by the chief justice in the 16th amendment verdict are not at all relevant to the subject matter of the case. We are injured, hurt and aggrieved.”
“He is not only the chief justice of the Supreme Court, but also of entire Bangladesh. He is an institution. We didn't except such an observation from him,” said Khasru, also an AL presidium member and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Law Ministry.
About passing of the 16th constitutional amendment again, Shafique said, “Practically it is not possible. He [Muhith] might have made the comment having been driven by emotion. It's not a proper remark.”
Shafique, who served as law minister from 2009-2014, said the only option before the government now was to file a petition with the Appellate Division seeking review of the verdict.
If the government can prove any error in the judgment, the apex court will correct it, he added. “Otherwise, the government would have no other option but to implement the verdict.”
BNP leader Moudud Ahmed said, “A very senior cabinet member has said they will pass the 16th amendment time and again. This is just horrifying.”
“The remark of a senior minister has made it clear that the Awami League government doesn't believe in the independence of the judiciary. It also doesn't believe in the rule of law,” he told a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club.
He called upon the government not to enter into a confrontation with the judiciary. “I urge the government to avoid conflicts with the judiciary. It would be a losing contest for them.”
Speaking at another programme at the same venue, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said some quarters were very happy with the SC verdict.
“Some quarters are very happy with the scrapping of the 16th constitutional amendment. They feel happy in this way. They are seeing a ray of hope. This ray of hope will fade out soon.”
Contacted, AL Law Affairs Secretary SM Rezaul Karim said he would not make any comment as his party was yet to decide its stance on the verdict.
Meanwhile, Manzill Murshid, counsel for nine lawyers who had filed the writ petition in November 2014 challenging the 16th amendment, yesterday said the finance minister made the remark as he has “no idea about the constitution”.
“His remark is pointless and against the constitution and court. The government won't be able to make any new law in this regard. There is nothing in this comment to lay emphasis on,” he told reporters at a Sylhet court.
Asked if the court's attention would be drawn to Muhith's alleged contemptuous remark, he said no contempt petition would be filed against him considering his age.
Addressing a press conference at the party's Nayapaltan central office, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed said the finance minister was making “fatuous remarks out of fear that the government would lose power”.