The 16th Amendment judgment has been at the centre of public attention throughout the year, as the much debated Amendment empowered parliament to dismiss Supreme Court judges. After being passed in 2014, the Amendment was declared illegal by the High Court Division in 2016. The state subsequently challenged the decision, but seven-member bench led by CJ Surendra Kumar Sinha found the Amendment unconstitutional in the Appellate Division as well.
A public lecture was held on Saturday, October 28, 2017 to critically analyse various aspects of the Amendment along with the judgments concerned. Bangladesh Study Forum (BDSF), Dhaka University, organized the lecture under the title “16th Amendment: A Dilemma to Constitutionalism in Bangladesh” at DUCSU.
Human Rights Activist, Saimum Reza Talukder, moderated the entire lecture. At the very onset, he welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers to the guests. He then invited Dr. S M Masum Billah to deliver his speech. According to Dr. Billah, Assistant Professor, Department of Law, Jagannath University, the judgment of the 16th Amendment Case upholds the glory and honor of the Judiciary. The consequences that followed the verdict substantiated such claim, he said. However, he thinks that the Judiciary should be meticulous in regard of language used in a judgment. The verdict could have been rather concise, than being unnecessarily lengthy, he complained about the verbosity. He demonstrated how the scope for Constitutional Amendments has been narrowed down after the 15th Amendment in 2011. The politicians being content with the idea of Supreme Judicial Council at that time also equivocates their current stance, he reasoned in favor of the verdict.
Mr. Talukder later requested Professor Dr. Ridwanul Hoque, Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka, to share his views on the Amendment to the Constitution. The judgment in his opinion has been detrimental to Constitutionalism. After 1973 Bangladesh started going towards unconstitutionalism; its present scenario and whether we have Constitutionalism in our country now is a political question, he went on to say.
He highlighted the historical background of the relevant provisions to the removal of judges. Until 1975, the judges could be removed by the order of Parliament. Then the Supreme Judicial Council was introduced by Martial Administrator and later on 15th amendment constitutionally supported the idea of a Council. Dr. Ridwanul thus thinks that the 16th Amendment is a mere restoration of the previous provision of the Constitution. The original Constitution could never be found unlawful although the court has indirectly declared the same as such and invalidated the original provision in the judgement of 16th Amendment Case. Therefore, Dr. Hoque believes the court to have overstepped in the issue terming it as a ‘Judicial Intervention’ into Politics.
Afterwards, Hasnat Quaium, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh talked briefly about the Constitution of 1972 and identified how political power can be misused arbitrarily using the tools of Constitution. He argued that the 16th Amendment Verdict is a savior of the Judiciary and it helped to maintain the Check and Balance.
Later on, the lecture became more interactive in the Q&A session followed by a Vote of Thanks delivered by Mr. Alauddin on behalf of BDSF. He appreciated everyone who had been patient during the whole lecture and participated spontaneously. A S M Younus, President, BDSF then handed over the token of appreciations to the respected speakers as the event concluded.
It was the 108th edition to the consistently held public lectures by BDSF. The lecture was attended by legal professionals, academicians, practitioners as well as students of different educational background and ended successfully.
The event covered by Raihan Rahman Rafid, a student of law, University of Dhaka.