Bangladesh Supreme Court Sunday fined two senior ministers Taka 50,000 ($ 625) each, finding them guilty of contempt for their derogatory remarks against the chief justice during the appeal hearing of a major 1971 war crimes convict, making their position in the Cabinet doubtful.
“We are convicting the ministers of serious contempt of court,” pronounced chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha as food minister Quamrul Islam and liberation war affairs minister Mozammel Huq appeared before the full bench of the apex court.
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The chief justice said the top court took a lenient stance in punishing them as the two ministers previously sought unconditional apology but the top court decided not to pardon them as they held positions in the cabinet “under an oath to protect the Constitution”.
“(Despite their oath) they made derogatory comments belittling the Chief Justice and the apex court, defying the constitution… which appeared ‘intentional’,” Sinha said.
According to the judgment Islam and Huq would have to deposit Taka 50,000 each, in next seven days to the bank accounts of two specialised private hospitals which offer philanthropic services to poor patients, failing which they have to spend seven days in prison.
The ministers declined to make any comments on the judgment.
Earlier this month, the two ministers had publicly snubbed the chief justice for his comments criticising investigators during the appeal hearing of a major 1971 war crimes convict, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Qashem Ali.
Ahead of delivering the verdict upholding Ali’s death penalty on March 8, the full bench of the court ordered the two ministers personal appearance to clarify their “contemptuous comments”.
Islam had called for a re-hearing of Ali’s appeal prayers excluding the chief justice as he earlier questioned the investigators efficiency in collecting evidence against the accused.
“Through a comment of the chief justice in the court, we have realised what verdict will be delivered in the case. We have realised that there is no scope for awarding the death penalty,” the food minister had said.
Asked if the two ministers now could retain their position in the cabinet, attorney general Mahbubey Alam said according to his knowledge the constitution did not specifically suggested any measure in this regard.
“But the issue involves the question of ethics… it is upon the cabinet (of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina) whether they will retain them,” Alam said.
Hasina had in a cabinet meeting earlier snubbed the two ministers for “embarrassing” the government through their comments and said her government did not own their “private comments”.