Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Awami League advisory council member Yusuf Hossain Humayun speaks in an interview with Prothom Alo on the judgement scrapping the 16th amendment.
Prothom Alo: Bangladesh Awami League has claimed the judgement scrapping the 16th amendment has belittled Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s sole leadership during the war of liberation. This does not appear in the judgement, so why is this protest being voiced?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: It does not need to be stated directly. It is written, “no nation - no country is made of or by one person.” It says we want to truly live up to the dream of Sonar Bangla as advocated by our father of the nation, we must keep ourselves free from this suicidal tendency of ‘I’, of claiming that only one person or one man did everything, etc.
Prothom Alo: The text you quoted does not deny Bangabandhu and independence of the country. This verdict is a strong protest against the emphasis on the individual or ‘I’. What’s wrong with the judgement? It clearly states the liberation war of Bangladesh was held under the leadership of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: The judgement does not state that in a proper manner. And our protest is not just about this issue. We have objections against other observations of the judgement too. The issue was challenging Article 96 of the constitution on the question of whether the parliament has the power to impeach judges or not. It was not about one-person leadership.
Prothom Alo: But what you say does not tally with what is in the judgement.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: It is a matter of interpretation.
Prothom Alo: So, the movement you are waging relies on interpretation, not on information?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: Yes, you are quite right. There was no leadership other than that of Bangabandhu in 1971, but chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has questioned that.
Prothom Alo: So you are making assumptions about the judgement?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: Yes, it is our assumption.
Prothom Alo: It is your assumption that the sentence, “no nation - no country is made of or by one person,” refers to Bangabandhu?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: It is our assumption. Not only ours, but many others have thought so too.
Prothom Alo: How do you resolve this?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: There is no solution other than expunging this observation.
Prothom Alo: How? Through a review?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: This does not require a review petition. The honorable justices, who have written this, can spontaneously expunge this considering that the observation has created discontent and confusion among people. The verdict was politicised. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) celebrated the verdict. Its secretary general termed the judgement historic. Another BNP leader said the government should resign.
Prothom Alo: BNP’s founder Ziaur Rahman has been criticised as an unlawful military ruler, for his dirty politics, and holding voterless elections. What would you say about this?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: I do not want to go into a comparative study. I have stated our assumption and belief. Moreover, the verdict has spoken against the parliament. Besides, it revived Article 116 that empowers the Supreme Court to have control over the affairs of lower judiciary.
Prothom Alo: There were negative observations in four separate judgements before concerning Article 116. Why are you reacting only now?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: There may have even been 10 more judgements. That is not relevant to this case. My point is that a political party is trying to reap benefits from the observations which were needlessly made about this judgement. BNP is trying to politicize the entire judgement. That is why I say the court should expunge these on its own accord.
Prothom Alo: The law minister thanked four judges for expressing their differences with the observations on Article 116. Do they agree with the rest of the judgement?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: No, I wouldn’t say that. There is need for more observations and reviews of this judgement.
Prothom Alo: Do you want to go to the court? Will the chief justice take initiative in this regard?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: The chief justice will realise that there is a problem. He may have done this in good faith, but the opposition is capitalising on this.
Prothom Alo: It’s not just the chief justice. Another judge has also agreed with all his observations.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: Whoever leads the team will be the one named.
Prothom Alo: Each and every judge is free to issue an independent judgement.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: They can independently give their judgements, but it will appear in the name of the chief justice
Prothom Alo: What is your next programme? What is the objective of the Bangabandhu Ainjibi Parishad?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: We will form a human chain on Wednesday, demanding that a few observations be expunged.
Prothom Alo: What about a review?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: That is up to the government.
Prothom Alo: Will you identify the objectionable parts?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: We can do so if the court takes initiative.
Prothom Alo: Do you really think the court will take initiative to expunge the observations?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: No, I was just answering your questions. We are senior lawyers and they can discuss with us. We will not request them. Former judges have said the court can do this on their own initiative.
Prothom Alo: Along with two former law ministers, you, too, met with the chief justice after the judgement. What did you discuss?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: The chief justice sent us a message. I said that there were certain irrelevant matters in the judgement for which he was being politicised.
Prothom Alo: BNP’s reaction seems to have troubled you all.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: They do such things all the time but we want the irrelevant matters to be removed.
Prothom Alo: They have even called for justice Khairul Huq to be arrested.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: That is an unjustified demand. He is a former chief justice. It is wrong to demand his arrest. They shouldn’t cross their limits.
Prothom Alo: But some ministers have passed objectionable comments about the present chief justice, too.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: I do not know who made any such remark. Those who spoke at the Sunday meeting, referred to him with respect. We even said that we do not disrespect the judgement.
Prothom Alo: Is there any other specific parts you want to expunge?
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: He called the members of parliament immature.
Prothom Alo: Actually he said the parliamentary democracy was immature.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun: Thank you.
* This interview, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain.