Vol. 5 Num 858 Mon. October 23, 2006  

Should Justice Hasan express embarrassment?

JUSTICE KM Hasan is our last retired chief justice. I have full respect for him because he has a good track record in the judiciary and has so far been widely acclaimed. Nobody cast doubts on the appropriateness of his legal proceedings. He was a very successful interpreter of law while serving as a Supreme Court judge, and successfully completed his highest office in our judiciary.

I have no question about his reliability or neutrality in performing the duty as the chief adviser to the caretaker government (CTG), if appointed as such in a few days. I supported him in my article, captioned "No to the CEC's Emphatic No," in the Bangladesh Observer published on June 8, where I wrote: "The major opposition has reservations regarding the sincerity of Justice KM Hasan, and the government parties hope that the new chief adviser will help them win. But I request both the groups to recall Justice Latifur Rahman, whom the AL trusted before he reshuffled the top administration, for holding a reliable election."

I noticed that Justice Hasan felt "embarrassed" at hearing the Bangabandhu murder case simply because one of the accused was a relative of his. That was significant evidence of his neutrality. According to Article 58C (3) of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, the president will appoint him the chief adviser on or after October 27. As I said before, I have full personal trust in his honesty and ability.

I realize that serving as the chief adviser is a very respectable job. Although the CTG is not an elected body, its popularity is much more than our elected governments. My assumption can be tested by a sample poll, or even by a referendum! The general mass would be very happy if any of the CTGs was leading the nation, even for a full five year term. The position of chief adviser is Justice Hasan's constitutional privilege (maybe liability as well), and is of high esteem, even if not a lucrative one financially.

However, the major opposition 14-party combine's reservation has, by now, transformed into their number one demand: he should not be the chief adviser. Their allegation is that Justice Hasan was a BNP man in 1979, and has been rewarded by that party in some way or the other. Therefore, my personal trust in him is now insignificant.

The major opposition 14-party combine is so adamant that they are reluctant to talk on other points before the 4-party alliance makes a move for Justice Hasan's forgoing the chief advisership. Justice Hasan surely knows that justice should not only be done, but it should also be seen to be done.

It is now time for him to prove again his neutrality and honour as our respected last retired chief justice. How can he do that? The majority of people think that he can say no to serving as the chief adviser. The latest news (still unconfirmed) is that the leaders of the 4-party alliance and the 14-party combine (that would be on equal footing from October 28) both would request him to say no to serving as the chief adviser. So why doesn't he simply say no before the leaders request him?

However, the question that arises is that since the president has not yet invited him to serve as the chief adviser, how can he say that he is not interested in serving? If this question is in Justice Hasan's mind, then he is very right. If he has made up his mind that he will regret when (maybe on October 27 or 28) the president invites him, then it is a good decision.

But still there is a problem in that. The people are very anxious to see the stalemate broken, and the problem solved before October 27, preferably October 23, the day fixed for the next dialogue between the two general secretaries (or will that be between the two chief leaders?).

If he says no on October 27, finding the next person, according to Article 58C (3) second paragraph or Article 58C (4) or 58C (5) of the Constitution, may be delayed, and the blame for this delay has to be shared by both Justice Hasan and the BNP.

So what's the way out? The way the two major groups of political parties are pulling and pushing Justice Hasan, I think he is feeling embarrassed at heart. Therefore, the way is to get out! Justice Hasan can just express the embarrassment that is very much in his heart.

Expressing embarrassment does not require invitation from the president. If he can do this boldly, the political ball will automatically reach the politicians' court. Then they can play with it in their way. However, the time is now such that they would not be able to play a foul game anyway.

If Justice Hasan fails to show courage in expressing the feeling inside him, then there is a chance that many will see his embarrassment in hearing the Bangabandhu murder case as being politically motivated, just to delay the process of justice in that case. Thus, he would lose the honour that, so far, seems deserved. The 4-party alliance's sticking to the point so firmly may then appear to the public eye as a tactic to have some edge over its competitor in the ensuing election.

The Constitution would not be disregarded if the chief adviser is appointed according to Article 58C (3) second paragraph, or Article 58C (4), or 58C (5) in place of 58C (3) first paragraph.

MAS Molla writes on social issues.