Vol. 5 Num 500 Fri. October 21, 2005  

In Memoriam
Justice Maksum-ul-Hakim
An impressive record of public service

Justice Maksum-ul-Hakim passed away in one of Dhaka's private hospital in the late evening of October 12. He was 78. We are all saddened at losing him.

He was a successful barrister, Advocate General for the government of erstwhile East Pakistan, an Ambassador of Bangladesh, and an elected member of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee for Prevention of Discrimination of Minorities. In all these positions, he has distinguished himself and carried out with dedication.

In 1962, I had the privilege of meeting with him for the first time as a junior barrister at the High Court in Dhaka in 1962. He was then the Advocate General and continued until 1966 when he was elevated to the Bench of the High Court.

He was a skilful lawyer and a very determined person to argue his position with case laws before the court, and we junior barristers, used to listen to his arguments to the court and attempted to glean the technique of arguing a case before the High Court.

In my dealings with him as a junior barrister in the office of the Advocate General, I found Justice Hakim always courteous, constructive, and helpful. There is no doubt about his deep analytical legal mind and it was obvious after even the shortest discussion on any legal brief.

As an Advocate General, he was the Principal Legal Officer of the government, and during his term of office, it was always about purpose of law for the benefit of the public and about a willingness to challenge the orthodox interpretation of law.

He could "see further through a brick wall" than anyone else I knew in a legal case. When he was free, he used to come to the Bar library where he used to meet with other lawyers and he made a point at least a week to come to the Bar to have a "sense" what was going on in the Bar.

Justice Hakim was born in Khulna. His father was a Deputy Magistrate. He had been a brilliant student all through. He had a First Class MA from Calcutta University in late 40s and was called to the Bar from the Hon'ble Society of Lincoln's Inn, London in 1949. On return from England, he married the second daughter of late Chief Justice Amin Ahmed.

As a High Court Judge, he always believed in liberal and balanced interpretation of the laws. His contribution as a judge was enhanced because he was a strong adherent of an independent judiciary.

From anecdotal evidence and the comments of his colleagues, it is clear that Justice Hakim had highly developed analytical mind and a finely tuned insight which he brought to bear during his tenure as a High Court judge. Nearly everyone who knew him expressed the view that at the heart of his considerable legal skill was his understanding of the role of an independent judiciary in public life.

After he left the Court, he then spent next more than six years as Ambassador of Bangladesh to Argentina and Sweden. When he completed his assignment in Sweden, he decided it was time to move on.

On returning to Bangladesh after his diplomatic career, he often used to appear before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on complex legal cases, besides conducting some difficult arbitration matters.

As a UN Human Rights Sub-Committee member, he was respected for his capacity to distill the essence of a subject by other members. He made numerous friends with many world-leading lawyers from other countries in the Human Rights Commission. His role at the UN Sub-Committed of Human Rights during the early 90s was constructive and substantial.

Justice Hakim had style, wit, and intelligence to match his lively nature among his close friends and members of family. He knew how to relax himself, although outwardly he seemed to be quite somber.

He leaves behind an impressive record of public service. He was a widely traveled person, loved music, and feature films that depicted social and cultural life. He was a lover of books and remained immersed for hours in reading a book.

Justice Hakim is survived by his wife, Nessima, son, Justice Tariq ul Hakim, and three daughters, Yasmin, Sonia, and Tania and his several grandchildren. All the members of the family were near him when he passed away.

We all pray to Almighty Allah for eternal peace of his soul.

Barrister Harun ur Rashid is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
Justice Maksum-ul-Hakim (1926-2005)