Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury, Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice AKM Zahirul Hoque of the High Court Division, have gone on leave from Thursday after in an unprecedented development the chief justice allocated no courts to them.
Justice Salma is the second senior most judge of the High Court Division.
The decision to withdraw judicial powers of the three judges was taken in consultation with the president in the backdrop of primary inquiry against them, said High Court Division’s special officer Saifur Rahman said in a statement.
He, however, did not spell out why or who made the primary inquiry or against whom.
‘It’s confidential,’ he said.
He also did not mention the names of the three judges of the High Court Division.
After the judges were informed that their judicial powers had been withdrawn, they applied for leave,’ Saifur told reporters.
Later, attorney general Mahbubey Alam said at a news conference that when he met the chief justice he was informed that the decision was taken in consultation with the president.
He said that the chief justice held meetings with the other Appellate Division judges on the issue.
When asked what are the allegations against the three judges, the attorney general said that it would be known on completion of the inquiry.
Asked who would hold the inquiry, he said that the chief justice would take a decision about the methodology of the inquiry or who would it in consultation with the president.
Withdrawal of judicial powers of Supreme Court judges ‘is unprecedented,’ said the attorney general.
He said that it was an old demand of the Supreme Court Bar Association to take action against judges facing various rumours.
Asked how action would be taken against SC judges as there is no law for that, he said that the president ‘cannot sit idle after hearing the rumours’.
He said that a review petition were pending against the Appellate Division’s verdict that upheld the High Court Division’s verdict restoring the Chief Justice-led Supreme Judicial Council after Parliament’s authority to remove SC judges was struck down by the Appellate Division.
Court officials told New Age that Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury, Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice AKM Zahirul Hoque took leave for seven days from August 22 to August 29 on personal grounds.
On Thursday Justice Zahirul Hoque came to his chamber, but Justice Salma Masud and Justice Reza-Ul Hoque were at home.
Justice Zahirul Hoque was recently shifted to a single bench on civil matters.
The judicial powers of Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury and Justice AKM Zahirul Hoque were withdrawn three months after their bench’s decree on a mortgage property was set aside by the Appellate Division on May 16 calling it ‘illegal’, and ‘absolutely fraud’.
The Appellate Division’s observations had prompted senior lawyers as well as the sitting and former attorneys general to demand inquiry into how this bench could order a lower court to issue decree in favour of MR Trading.
Following the demand, the chief justice invited Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury and Justice AKM Zahirul Hoque in his chamber to discuss the matter.
Sources in the chief justice’s office told New Age that in January, 2018, the power of hearing original writ petitions by the bench-led by Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque was withdrawn by the then Acting Chief Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Mia in following allegations of misconduct.
Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque was shifted to a single bench.
Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque in the three-judge bench of High Court Division that had struck down the 16th Amendment that had empowered Parliament to remove SC judges for ‘misconduct’.
On May 16, the seven-judge full court of the Appellate Division led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain had cancelled the High Court order passed by Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury led bench on October 5, 2017 asking the Dhaka Financial Loan Court 3 to issue a decree in favour of MR Trading Company.
It also rejected a ruling issued by the High Court bench of Justice Mamnoon Rahman and Justice Ashish Ranjan Das on April 28 summoning the managing director of the bank on May 5 to explain why he failed to implement the October 5, 2017 order.
The apex court bench led by the chief justice also imposed fine to the tune of Tk one crore on MR Trading Company owner Md Mizanur Rahman on whose writ petition, the HC bench had ordered the lower court to issue decree in favour of the writ petitioner.
Former law minister Shafique Ahmed and his son Mahbub Shafique had moved the writ petition of MR Trading owner Mizanur Rahman.
Appearing for National Bank Limited with which MR Trading Company property was mortgages Rokanuddin Mahmud submitted at the Appellate Division’s hearing that the HC bench had committed a serious illegality by ordering the Financial Loan Court to issue decree in favour of MR Trading during pendency of the writ petition.
At hearing, the judges of the apex court asked MR Trading’s lawyer Abdul Baset Majumder to explain how ‘this sort of unprecedented order was managed’.
‘It is absolutely a fraud,’ said a judge throwing his pen.
The judge was sitting next to the chief justice.
He also said that after this the High Court Division ceased to be a court.
He also asked Baset Majumder to say whether he saw the HCD issuing an order like in his 50-year career as a lawyer.
The court wanted to know what message would be sent to the people by such an order.
Present at the hearing, former attorneys general AF Hassan Ariff, Fida M Kamal and AJ Mohammad Ali, and former Supreme Court Bar Association presidents Khandker Mahbub Hossain and AFM Meshbah Uddin and other senior lawyers requested the chief justice to refer the matter to the president.
The bank filed the petition in the Appellate Division challenging the October 5, 2017 order that asked the financial loan court to pass a decree of Tk 136 crore in connection with two suits for recovery of defaulted loans filed by the bank in 2016.
The High Court order also directed the financial loan court to return to MR Trading the rest of proceeds from the sale of mortgaged property amounting Tk 48.56 crore after adjustment of the loan in seven days.
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