Emergency | A BROKEN DREAM | Status of Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy

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After the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) formed the government in 2001, a good number of cases were filed against prominent leaders of the Awami League including leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra (Students’) league. The president, vice-president and secretary of the student organization were put on detention. After their release, they were shown arrested in a dozen murder cases in different districts. I quashed all the cases in a habeas corpus petition in exercise of suo moto powers with guidelines to the police about showing arrest of an offender while in custody. I also released most of the Awami League leaders on bail. This enraged the government in power. Moudud Ahmed, then Law Minister openly criticized me on the floor of Parliament castigating me as a diehard Awami League supporting judge and for showing undue favor to Awami League leaders. I was extremely shocked by such criticism, which I saw as per advice of Abdur Rashid, a friend of mine with Channel-I, being broadcast directly from the Parliament.

This has become a convention being followed by both the biggest political parties: filing cases with a motive to take political vendetta whenever they come to power defeating the other party. Thereafter, the special intelligence department submitted reports against me with wild allegations of corruption which I came to know from late justice Sultan Hussain Khan, then Chairman of the Durnity Daman (Anti-Corruption) Commission. I asked him to get the matter investigated and said I was ready to face an inquiry. He said, it would create a very bad precedence and that the Constitution also does not permit such a procedure. I told him that this agency will not stop in their endeavors to vilify me. I also knew why this department was showing so much interest to castigate me as corrupt judge.

A deadlock ensued about the appointment of the Chief Advisor. The Awami League protested the appointment of K.M. Hasan, and ultimately Hasan himself declined to become the Chief Advisor. President Dr. Yajuddin Ahmed assumed the office of Chief Advisor by-passing the provisions of the Constitution. There was total lawlessness due to the movement by the Awami League. Ultimately the army intervened, and it was due to the pressure from international organizations that unless a credible election is presented by the government with the participation of all political parties, the Bangladesh members of the peace keeping force deployed by the United Nations would be sent back. This created some commotion in the armed forces rank and file. Yajuddin Ahmed was compelled to step down due to the pressure of the army, Emergency was declared in the country, and Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed was appointed as the Chief Advisor. While the Bangladesh Awami League was happy with the outcome, the other main political party was demoralized. During all this development Justice B.K. Das’s wife suddenly died (in 2007) and hearing the news I rushed to his residence. A few minutes later Suranjit Sengupta, a senior prominent leader of the Awami League also arrived there. We were very close to each other. Suranjit could not control his happiness on the declaration of Emergency and gave credit to his party’s achievement as if his party, the Awami League, had come to power. He said, it is a matter of time before the formation of the next government by his party. Seemingly he even forgot that we went there to express our grief to the bereaved family, particularly to B.K. Das.

Suranjit was about to leave saying that he had some engagements. I stopped him saying, “Hello leader, before you depart I have something to say, please sit down.” I told him that leaders like him were the people dancing due to the declaration of Emergency without making a political evaluation of the situation. I told him that apparently, he had forgotten about the consequences of the imminent danger caused to the country. “You’ve foolishly welcomed the army without understanding the impact. Your party would be the first target and take it for granted, you are not getting any election soon.” When I explained to him the reasons, it appeared to me that he was a bit confused but left saying, “Let us see.” My apprehension proved true within a few days. The first target of the army was Sheikh Hasina, President of the Awami league. She was arrested in connection with some cases filed in the meantime for alleged corruption even though she was not the immediate past prime minister. Meanwhile, more political leaders were arrested after the consolidation of power by the army.

After about six months, I was informed by the Registrar that President Yajuddin Ahmed had invited me at Bangabhaban the following afternoon. When I went to meet him, I found that his Military Secretary Major General Mohammad Aminul Karim was with him with a file in his hands. Initially I did not harbor any doubt, rather I was thinking that I was called to be given a special assignment. However, my assumption proved false within a minute. The President told me that I had to resign. On query, he told me that there were serious allegations of corruption against me. I told him that this report was false and that he should think over the matter again. At that point the Military Secretary was trying to say something while looking at the file in his hand. I stopped him saying that he was not supposed to talk with me because I was invited by the President.

I told the President that I would not resign in this manner and reminded him that I would not even get my pension benefit if I resigned. Then he said to me that the government would give me double the amount if I agreed to his proposal. Even if I wanted to go to India, the government would afford me all facilities. I said sorry and told him to think over the matter again and I left even without taking the tea offered to me. Chief Justice Md. Ruhul Amin was away from the country and three days after his return I narrated the incident and sought his advice. He told me to perform my judicial work without succumbing to the pressure. By then Brigadier General Ameen, who was also known as Behari Ameen, had been posted to the DGFI. He started creating pressure on me to step down. One day the Military Secretary to the President wanted to talk with me through the Supreme Court telephone exchange. I refused to talk with him. Dr. Kamal Hossain was in the U.K. and on getting information, he sent his daughter Barrister Sara Hossain, an activist and social worker, to my Kakrail residence with the message that I should not do anything till his return. Then I received a letter from the President’s Secretariat to intimate my opinion regarding the talk between myself and the President. Dr. Hossain in the meantime had returned from abroad and met me in my chamber and handed over a written reply. I showed him the one prepared by me. On reading my reply, he emotionally said that it was far better than his. I replied directly to the President that both of us had taken oath under the Constitution: that the Constitution has delineated both of our duties and responsibilities specifically and that he should refrain from doing anything which violates his oath under the Constitution. Thereafter the matter subsided.

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