The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court would soon have at least three new judges allowing the chief justice to form a new bench that would deal with appeals related to war crimes cases.
State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam told The Daily Star that new judges would be appointed to the apex court after President Zillur Rahman returns from Singapore.
The president is having treatment there and he has the authority to appoint any judge to the apex court.
A high official requesting anonymity said Law Minister Shafique Ahmed recently requested Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain to initiate the process for appointing new judges to the Appellate Division from the High Court Division as five posts lay vacant.
At least three judges were required for forming a full bench of the Appellate Division to hear and dispose of an appeal against the verdict of a war crimes tribunal, the official said.
A source said two of the three High Court judges, who could be elevated to the Appellate Division, were deprived of being regularised during the previous BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance government.
The two were regularised in 2009 as per a verdict of the apex court.
If the chief justice sends a proposal with the names of the new judges for the Appellate Division, the ministry of law would place it to the Prime Minister’s Office to have it forwarded to the president, the official said.
On appointment by the president, the ministry of law issues a gazette notification to this effect, the official added.
The full bench of the Appellate Division on March 10 fixed March 31 to start hearing appeals filed by the government and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah against a verdict delivered by the International Crimes Tribunal-2, set up to try crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War.
Tribunal-2 on February 5 sentenced the 65-year-old Jamaat leader to life imprisonment on five war-time offences out of six he was charged with.
The government filed the appeal with the Supreme Court on March 3 seeking death penalty for Mollah in each of the six charges.
Mollah filed his appeal with the same court on March 4 seeking acquittal in the charges brought and proved against him.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star that the chief justice would decide how many Appellate Division judges would be in the bench to hear the appeals.
Two war crimes tribunals have so far delivered verdicts in three cases. The tribunals have awarded death penalty to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee and former member of the party Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar.
Convict Sayedee’s lawyers said their client would file an appeal. Bachchu Razakar is absconding.
With a judge going into retirement on November 2, 2012, five posts for judges at the Appellate Division have been made vacant and no new judge has been appointed in more than 22 months.
The court had a total of 11 posts for judges but it is running with six judges in a single bench. At least three more judges are required to form a bench.
The number of High Court judges is now 97.
A total of 16,647 cases were pending with the Appellate Division until December 31, 2012, sources said.
After assuming power on January 6, 2009, the present government appointed 10 judges to the Appellate Division and 61 judges to the High Court Division.
On July 9, 2009, the president raised the number of posts of judges in the Appellate Division to 11 from seven.
The Supreme Court Bar Association on October 26, 2010, had adopted a resolution expressing annoyance over dillydallying in the appointments.
Source: The Daily Star