Our lower judiciary is now in a peculiar state. It is under dual rule. The constitution allows both the Supreme Court and the law ministry to retain supervision and control over the lower judiciary, a concept rare in any democracy
The allegations are serious in nature that may leave scars on the face of both lower judiciary and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
A minister has allegedly influenced the anti-corruption commission to file graft cases against former Awami League MP who is a political rival in the minister's parliamentary constituency. The minister also allegedly influenced a district judge court not to grant bail to the former MP, who is also the leader of the ruling party of a Pirojpur district unit.
The AL leader in a press conference raised all these allegations which were rejected outright by the minister.
We don't know whether the allegations are false or true. But the consequences were severe. The district judge, who denied the leader bail, was transferred and made OSD at the law ministry hours after his order. Another district judge who took charge after the transfer of the senior judge granted bail shortly after to the AL leader. The unprecedented incident triggered an outcry.
We don't want to believe in the allegations. But such allegations are embarrassing for any government.
Finding out the truth behind such allegations is absolutely necessary to lend support to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vow to fight against corruption and ensuring rule of law by upholding the independence of the judiciary.
The incident armed the critics of her government with fresh weapons. They started claiming that their accusation against the government, that it has been influencing the corruption drive and lower judiciary, was factual. The law minister may continue defending his ministry's action regarding transfer of the district judge but he cannot change the negative public perception, which is critical for the independence of judiciary.
The biggest loser is the judiciary in such an unwarranted incident. Our lower judiciary is now in a peculiar state. It is under dual rule. The constitution allows both the Supreme Court and the law ministry to retain supervision and control over the lower judiciary, a concept rare in any democracy. This has been possible as the lower judiciary has not effectively been separated from the executive branch of the government. The separation should have been done immediately after the Constitution of independent Bangladesh took effect in 1972. But the constitutional provision was ignored by the all the past governments. The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict in 1999 ruled for separation of the lower judiciary in line with the constitutional provision.
The verdict remained unimplemented for around two decades until a non-partisan caretaker government honoured it in 2007 and separated the lower judiciary from the executive branch of the government. But, an effective separation still remains a distant cry. The latest incident proves it once again.
Weakness in enforcing anti-graft measures and enforcement of the criminal laws against unlawful activities and wrongdoers are blamed for our negative image in many global indices like the corruption perception index by Transparency International and the Rule of Law index by the World Justice Forum.
An independent judiciary is considered a hallmark of a democracy. Our economy is growing fast. Currently, we are one of the fastest growing economies. We hope to be an upper middle income country by 2030. We want our judiciary to function in a befitting manner of such a country as well.
But is it possible to make our growth sustainable and become an upper middle income country without having an independent judiciary? The question is simple. The answer is simple, too. Now the government policymakers should think deeply whether our judiciary is on the right track.