A grave crisis in the structure of democratic governance has erupted in Bangladesh a year before the general elections. That appears to be the major parallel with Pakistan, where the judiciary has disqualified the Prime Minister.
It has ignited the raging controversy between the judiciary and the executive, with the Bangladesh Chief Justice SK Sinha, referring to the Pakistan court order that led to Nawaz Sharif’s ouster. This has implicitly emitted an unnerving signal to Prime Minister Begum Hasina and her Awami League. However, there is no call for the party’s spin-doctors to cavil that the observation has been made by the country’s first Hindu Chief Justice, and thus sharpen the sectarian divisions in a country that is plagued by Islamist fundamentalism.
If to a lesser degree, the minority factor is no less insidious. Awami League supporters have already made the waters murkier by shrilling for the resignation of the Chief Justice. The crisis appears to be as grave as that in Pakistan.
The CJ’s remark ~ a “threat” to the Prime Minister? ~ has led to a confrontation between the judiciary on the one hand, and the executive and the ruling party at another remove. Less than a year before the elections, this is bound to affect the quality of governance, though it may not rock the applecart quite yet.
Whether the CJ resigns or is “forced” to go on leave can only be speculated upon at this juncture. The nub of the matter is pretty obvious ~ Justice Sinha is intent on buttressing the authority of the courts.
It bears recall that a Supreme Court bench, headed by the Chief Justice, had recently abrogated a constitutional amendment that was crafted to empower Parliament to impeach apex court judges. The order was bound to widen the rift between the organs of democratic governance.
The judgment was marked by observations against the political class, and this caused a flutter in the Awami roost. “Comparing Bangladesh with Pakistan is not tolerable at all,” is Hasina’s message to the judiciary.
The fact that senior Awami leaders had then condemned the Chief Justice has doubtless provoked the latest response by the judiciary. Hence the strong reference to the Pakistan court order couched in the message that if the judiciary can remove the Prime Minister in one country, so too can it in another.
“The judiciary has been very, very patient. All I am saying is that we need to be more mature,” was Justice Sinha’s advice to the Attorney-General.