Saturday, November 11, 2017 11:26:07 PM
Staff Reporter :
Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has resigned from his post amid criticism by the ruling party since the Supreme Court scrapped a constitutional amendment to sack higher court judges.
He sent his resignation letter to the President from Singapore on Friday night.
"The President's office has received the letter of resignation from the Chief Justice. The letter will be processed for a gazette notification, " said President's Press Secretary M Joynal Abedin on Saturday.
Sinha is the first Chief Justice to step down from his position. Many termed his resignation as 'unusual' as he stepped down from his post just before six weeks of his retirement.
The resignation of the Chief Justice was preceded by harsh criticism of him by a number of Cabinet Members and Members of Parliament over the full verdict that cancelled the 16th amendment to the Constitution.
Sinha assumed the office on January 17, 2015 as the country's 21st Chief Justice. His term was scheduled to end on January 31, 2018.
He was the first non-Muslim Chief Justice (CJ) in Bangladesh.
Sinha went on 'sudden' leave on October 3 and left for Australia on October 13.
The Law Ministry's notification issued on October 12 said that the Chief Justice's 30-day 'sick leave' from October 3 to November 1 was extended until November 10.
As Sinha went on leave, the government made Md Abdul Wahhab Miah the acting Chief Justice. The law ministry also issued a gazette notification in this regard.
The Chief Justice was not allowed to meet anybody except government leaders and Ministers before his departure to Australia. Even the Supreme Court Bar Association leaders and senior lawyers were prevented from meeting him despite their several attempts. Just before his departure, Sinha told reporters that he was not sick, contradicting the government claim that he went on leave on health grounds.
He also said that he was not fleeing the country, but embarrassed' due to criticism by the ruling party men. "I'm the guardian of the judiciary. I'm leaving temporarily for the sake of the judiciary... I'll return."
The Chief Justice did not return to the country on Friday, when his 39-day leave ended.
A day after Sinha's trip to Australia, the Supreme Court issued a statement saying the Chief Justice is facing 11 charges, including graft and money laundering.
It also said, five judges of the Appellate Division of the apex court declined to sit with Sinha in the Bench for delivering justice following the allegations.
Talking to reporters the same day, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said rejoining the office of the CJ after his return from abroad is "a far cry."
On July 3 last, the Appellate Division, led by Sinha, upheld a High Court verdict that declared illegal the 16th amendment of the Constitution scrapping the Parliament's authority in impeaching Supreme Court judges.
The government row with the higher judiciary sparked following the apex court's verdict.
Later on August 1, the Supreme Court released the 799-page text of the verdict after its six judges including Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha signed it.
Sinha was widely criticised by Ministers and ruling party leaders for his observations made in the verdict. They also demanded his resignation.
The dispute grew in the subsequent weeks as several senior government leaders virtually attacked Sinha over his comments, blasting the government for its reaction and gave Pakistan's example where ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was stripped of his premiership under an apex court ruling.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused him of defaming Parliament and President and "humiliating" Bangladesh by referring to Pakistan's instance of Premier's removal saying "he (Chief Justice) should have quit and the most humiliating thing of him was the comparison with Pakistan which is intolerable".
Main Opposition outside Parliament, Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chief Begum Khaleda Zia supported Sinha, saying the government was trying to control the higher judiciary by launching a campaign against the apex court judgment.
Sinha earlier in a written statement said he was a "bit worried about the independence of the judiciary". He complained that the judge who became the acting Chief Justice to perform the "routine" job in his absence was encouraged by the government to bring changes to the Supreme Court administration soon.
"If any interference is made in the Chief Justice's administration, it can be easily assumed that the government is interfering in the higher court and this will further deteriorate the relationship between the judiciary and the government. It would not bring any good to the state," he concluded.
An official, close to the Chief Justice, told The New Nation that Sinha left Singapore on Friday morning for Toronto by a China Southern Airlines.
Chief Justice's younger daughter stays in Toronto.
Sinha was facing probe for graft charges and moral lapses. Anti-Corruption Commission is looking into the charges levelled against him.
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