SK Sinha's 1,030 eventful days as chief justice

Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, who was sworn in as Bangladesh's 21st chief justice, was the first non-Muslim to hold the position in the Muslim-majority country.

Published : 11 Nov 2017, 09:40 AM
Updated : 12 Nov 2017, 06:46 AM

He was also the first in the country's history to have stepped down from office.

Amid criticism by the ruling Awami League over his verdict scrapping a constitutional amendment, Sinha left Bangladesh last month on leave.

He sent his resignation letter to the president's office on Saturday, after a little less than three years in office.

Justice Sinha, who was born to the minority Bishnupriya Manipuri community, took the reins of the judiciary on Jan 17, 2015.

His term was scheduled to end on Jan 31 next year, but he resigned 81 days ahead, after serving the office for 1,030 days.

Justice Sinha was on the appeals bench that heard the 13th Amendment appeal and scrapped the provision for caretaker government to oversee general elections.

He was also part of the bench that heard the 2009 appeals in the Bangabandhu Murder Case and has been an appeals judge in the ongoing war crimes trials.

He created a buzz even before the president appointed him as the country's top judge.

During the hearing of a war criminal's appeal, Justice Sinha said that in 1971, he was a member of the 'Peace Committee', formed to help the Pakistani forces in suppressing the freedom struggle of the Bengalis.

Sinha had said he had done it to 'save his life', but he used to pass information in the night to freedom fighters.

After his appointment as the chief justice, Sinha had been vocal against 'interference' of the executive in the judiciary.

He went to say there was an attempt to create a chasm between the judiciary and the administration, to which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina responded that a conflict was not expected.

 The chief justice's row with the government over publishing the gazette notification for services rule for lower court judges often made news headlines.

His bickering with Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury, who retired last year and wrote to the president seeking the chief justice's impeachment, attracted a lot of attention.

The latest wave of criticism stemmed from Justice Sinha’s observations in the verdict that scrapped the 16th constitutional amendment designed to empower lawmakers to sack top court judges.

 In the five months after the Supreme Court verdict in July, Justice Sinha steps down from the office of the country's judge.

The following timeline lays out significant events leading up to his resignation.

Jan 17, 2015: Surendra Kumar Sinha was appointed chief justice, scheduled to finish term in January 31, 2018

May 5, 2016: High Court declares illegal the 16th constitutional amendment that empowers parliament to remove top judges

Jul 3, 2017: Appellate Division upholds High Court decision cancelling the 16th amendment.

Aug 1, 2017: Appellate Division releases the full verdict on decision cancelling 16th amendment.

Aug 2, 2017: Appellate Division reinstates Supreme Judicial Council to oversee judges

Aug 4, 2017: Finance Minister AMA Muhith criticises Supreme Court’s verdict, says parliament will pass 16th amendment again

Aug 9, 2017: Law Commission Chairman ABM Khairul Haque criticises the 16th amendment verdict

Aug 13, 2017: BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam says the ruling Awami League is trying to pile pressure on the chief justice

Aug 18, 2017: Law Minister Anisul Huq says government prepares to seek review of Supreme Court decision,.

Aug 21, 2017: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina bashes Justice Sinha for the observations included in the 16th amendment verdict

Aug 23, 2017: BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi says he has heard that Justice Sinha would be removed, using an ‘illness’ as an excuse

Aug 24, 2017: The last day Chief Justice Sinha spent in  office before the apex court’s annual vacation

Sept 14, 2017: Parliament passes motion to take legal steps against the Supreme Court verdict on the 16th amendment

Oct 2, 2017: Attorney General Mahbubey Alam says Justice Sinha has sought one-month leave from the president

Oct 3, 2017: Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah is appointed to head Supreme Court as acting chief justice in Sinha’s absence

Oct 13, 2017: Justice Sinha leaves Dhaka for Australia and says he is ‘not sick’, but that he is leaving because he is ‘embarrassed’ and is concerned over the independence of the judiciary.

Oct 14, 2017: Supreme Court says Chief Justice Sinha’s colleagues refuse to work with him amid barrage of allegations including graft and moral lapse

Oct 15, 2017: Law Minister Anisul Huq says corruption allegations against Justice Sinha will be investigated

Oct 21, 2017: Attorney General Mahbubey Alam forms committee to prepare for review of 16th amendment verdict

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher