IN RESPONSE to the felicitations from the Supreme Court Bar Association and the office of the Attorney General on Sunday, the country’s newly appointed Chief Justice, Syed Mahmud Hossain, has said that he would always try to uphold harmony between the three organs of the state — executive, legislature and judiciary — for the sake of forging ahead the country on the path of development. The statement of the Chief Justice apparently sounds very constructive, for it is indeed generally important to forge harmony between the three branches of the state for the genuine development of the people at large. However, the idea is not sure to be productive under all circumstances. It might rather spell disaster for the people at large if the judiciary maintains ‘harmony’ with two other branches in a political dispensation where the legislature is not duly elected and the executive is repressive of democratic values. Under such circumstances, judiciary remains the last resort of the people in both, political and philosophical senses of the word, while judiciary, particularly the higher judiciary, is expected to fight, as and when relevant, with the two other branches in order to uphold democratic values and protect fundamental rights of the citizens.
Bangladesh has presently a legislature, more than half of which was not elected, while the rest were elected by hardly about 10 per cent of the voters. It was this kind of a legislature that provided the political incumbents to form government and manage the executive. Not surprisingly, the legislature in question has already enacted a number of unjust laws and the executive has been out to silence dissenting political and intellectual views by coercive means. The judiciary’s ‘harmonious’ relations with such a non-representative legislature and such an authoritarian executive can hardly help to uphold democratic values and protect fundamental rights of the citizens. Instead, judiciary’s principled opposition to such undemocratic phenomena has helped the CJ’s professed cause in many countries, including Bangladesh, on various occasions in the past. On top of this all, it is the office of the president, not that of the Chief Justice, which is supposed to take care of the democratic harmony between the three organs of the state.
If the new Chief Justice is still determined to undertake the duty of forging harmony with any branch of the state, he would rather be well advised to do that with the country’s media — the unofficial ‘fourth branch’ of the state, for a critical mass media dedicated to public good and a conscientious judiciary committed to democratic principles, if and when work in tandem, can ensure the transparency and accountability of the state organs like legislature and executive, and thus forge ahead the country on the path of genuine development.
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