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13th-Apr-2016

UP Chairmen are removed, govt servants suspended, but ministers don`t have to bother

By Editorial Desk

Bangladesh's Supreme Court recently found two ministers guilty of contempt after they criticised the country's Chief Justice, casting doubt on their future in the Cabinet. It fined the two lawmakers 50,000 taka ($625) each, with seven days in prison if they fail to pay the penalty.Food Affairs Minister Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haq had publicly criticised Chief Justice SK Sinha earlier this month. They asked him to step aside from an appeal case involving a top Islamist leader sentenced to death for war crimes. The court said their remarks were tantamount to intervention in the judiciary, according to a report in a local daily.They  offered unconditional apologies but the court rejected their apologies and fined them 50,000 taka each. The Supreme Court had asked the men to explain their "derogatory and highly contemptuous comments", which "undermined the dignity and prestige of the Supreme Court and the office of the Chief Justice".Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, would now decide whether it would retain them as ministers despite their conviction. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of the Islamist leader. Critics said the ministers' comments were aimed at putting pressure on the court ahead of the Islamist's appeal verdict.Contempt of court is a criminal act and is seen as a high offence for showing disregard to the justice system. Even if the ministers did not act against the oath of office, they have been found guilty of a serious offence. But still, it is different for the ministers to think they are holding public office and must set good examples in public life. The ministers cannot show disregard for the Supreme Court and be seen as responsible to establish rule of the law.  The latest incident of minister not caring upholding the value of fair justice is the minister for the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Mr. Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya. He has been already convicted to suffer 13 years of imprisonment for corruption in public office. The Supreme Court refused to set aside the conviction but referred the matter back to the High Court Division to hear it by a different Division Bench. But the minister feels under no obligation to step aside from his position of ministership although his case will be heard by the High Court Division and it will be seen that he will retain the position of creating pressure on the justice process. We have laws for elected Chairmen of Union Parishads to be suspended as soon as a criminal case is started against them. It is a criticism against the government that the government abuses this law to remove a UP Chairman not of it's liking. Any government servant or an employee of a govt corporation is liable to be suspended if he or she is facing even a private criminal case. Such laws are too stringent. But for a minister to remain in power when a criminal case against him is in the court for deciding his guilt is unheard of.  Corruption in public life has become a show of power not to be ashamed.