Top court releases full verdict on 16th constitutional amendment

The Supreme Court has released the full verdict that declared the 16th constitutional amendment illegal. The amendment gave parliament the powers to impeach judges.

Published : 1 August 2017, 06:40 AM
Updated : 1 August 2017, 07:57 PM

“A 799-page decision will soon be available on the court's website,” High Court Division Additional Registrar Md Sabbir Foyez told on Tuesday.

The 16th amendment was passed in parliament in 2014. The High Court heard a petition by nine Supreme Court lawyers on the matter in 2016 and declared the amendment illegal.

The state challenged the decision, but it was upheld by the Appellate Division on Jul 3 this year.

Bangladesh’s Constitution drafted in 1972 had given the MPs the power to impeach judges and decide their term in office. After the fourth amendment in 1975, the power was vested with the president.

The fifth amendment, brought on during military dictator Ziaur Rahman’s regime, legalised the formation of a Supreme Judicial Council to impeach judges.

The fifth amendment was later declared illegal by court. Though the Awami League government brought the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 2011, but no changes were made in the Supreme Judicial Council provision.

Then, the 16th amendment was passed on Sep 17, 2014, allowing the parliament to remove judges by a two-thirds majority on grounds of inefficiency and misconduct. It was notified by inclusion in the official gazette five days later.

On Nov 5, 2014, nine Supreme Court lawyers filed the petition challenging the amendment’s legal basis. Four days later, the High Court issued a rule asking why the amendment would not be declared unconstitutional.

In May 2016, a special High Court bench ruled the 16th amendment illegal. The 165-page verdict was published in the same year.

Of the three judges of the HC bench, Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque had agreed that the amendment was illegal. But Justice Md Ashraful Kamal was in favour of dismissing the petition.

The state challenged the verdict at the Appellate Division and the hearing started on May 8 this year.

The court heard opinions of 10 Supreme Court lawyers as amici curiae or 'friends of the court' on the matter.

All of them, except one, favoured the High Court ruling that found the amendment illegal.

The High Court verdict had drawn sharp reaction from the political circle; even MPs walked out of parliament in protest. But the BNP supported the court’s ruling.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam’s insistence on an appeal hearing by the full-bench had created a rift in the courtroom, which later led to heated arguments between Alam and Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.

To calm the lawmakers, Law Minister Anisul Huq at the time described the High Court verdict as ‘unconstitutional’. He also said it would be overturned if challenged in the Appellate Division.

On Jul 3, the seven-member appeals bench led by Justice Sinha unanimously scraped the state's petition as well as expunged some of the observations made by the High Court.