Roundup: Bangladesh cabinet okays bill to empower parliament impeach judges

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Roundup: Bangladesh cabinet okays bill to empower parliament impeach judges

DHAKA, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) — The Bangladeshi Cabinet has given its nod to a proposal to amend the country’s constitution to empower parliament members to impeach apex court judges, a step the opposition described as an attempt to mute dissenting voices.

Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told journalists Monday that the draft of the Constitution (16th amendment) Act- 2014 got its final approval from the Cabinet.

The approval came at the regular cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Monday.

Bhuiyan said the law ministry will now complete the procedure to place it as a bill in the upcoming parliament session scheduled for Sept. 1.

In line with the draft, the parliament members will be able to impeach any judge for his misconduct or incapacity once the bill is passed in the parliament.

He advocated the proposal, saying it will help raising public confidence in the independence of the judiciary system.

But ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has strongly criticized the Bangladesh Awami League ( AL) government’s move to re-empower Parliament to impeach the Supreme Court judges, describing it as a conspiracy. Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir blamed the bill for trying to curb the independence of the judiciary.

He said AL wants to reestablish its previous one-party rule in the country. They’ve recently formulated a new broadcast policy which also aimed at annihilating democracy by censoring the media, he added.

“All of these things are examples of AL’s heinous efforts to institute a one-party BKSAL (1975) rule in the country.”

“This is how the government is taking away people’s democratic rights to speak and protest,” he said.

Bangladesh Law Commission has opined in favor of the amendment.

The commission Chairman ABM Khairul Haque,also a former chief justice, said there is no reason for the Supreme Court judges to be worried if the parliament gets the authority to impeach the judges for their misconduct or incapacity.

“Parliament is supreme and sovereign and it represents people. So all the people including the judges should be accountable to the parliament,” he said while passing remarks shortly after the cabinet approved the sixteenth charter amendment proposal.

He said in many countries including India, the United States and Britain the parliaments have been given the power to impeach the judges.

In Bangladesh’s 1972 Constitution, Article 96 allowed Parliament to impeach Supreme Court judges for proven offenses or incapability by a vote of a two-thirds majority.

Late President Ziaur Rahman, founder of BNP, later canceled it and bestowed the power to a Supreme Judicial Council through the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution

According to the existing constitutional provision, the Supreme Judicial Council comprising the chief justice and two other senior most judges of the Appellate Division investigates allegations of misconduct against any judge and makes necessary recommendations to the president.

The president then takes steps as per the suggestions.

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