The Cabinet has approved the draft of Bangladesh Supreme Court Judges (investigation) Act-2016, an act that empowers the Parliament to impeach judges of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told journalists about the decision at a press briefing after the weekly regular meeting.
In 2014, the 16th amendment of the Constitution abolished the provision of Supreme Judicial Council and paved the way for restoring the parliament’s authority to impeach the apex court’s judges for misconduct or incapacity (which was provided by the Constitution of 1972).
However, the Supreme Court did not respond to the Act when it was sent for the Court’s opinion. A writ petition (WP No 9989/2014) that challenged the validity of article 96(3) of the Constitution is due for verdict on 5th May, 2016, so the Court stated that providing any opinion in this pending matter and the draft bill shall impede the judicial process.
Provisions of the Draft Law
Any citizen can file a complaint against a Supreme Court judge to the Speaker of the Parliament. As per section 4(4), after receiving complaints the speaker will form a 10-member committee with MPs to investigate the allegation. The committee will act to determine whether the allegation is true and file a report within seven working days.
If the allegation is found baseless, the speaker will inform parliament about it and end the matter there. Making false claims will invite a punishment of a two-year jail term and a Tk 5 lakh in fine for the petitioner.
However, if the claim is found to be true, the speaker will form a four-member committee to further investigate it.
As per secion 5(1) of the draft Act, the members will include a former chief justice, a retired Appellate Division judge, a former attorney general [aged below 67] and a prominent citizen or a jurist.
They will submit a report to the speaker if they find the allegation to be true. The speaker will then place it in parliament and take opinions from the MPs before forwarding it to the president. As per section 11, the accused Judge shall be given the opportunity defend him/ herself before the parliament. After everything, the President can exercise his power to remove the Judge under article 96(2) of the Constitution.