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February 29, 2004

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Concern over performance of the law officers

Muhammad Samsul Hoque

Recently as per the report in the Daily Star of 2nd January, 2004 the Attorney General has expressed extreme concern over a sort of corrupt and poor performance of his fellow law officers. The Editor of the Dhaka law Reports, Mr. Shahabuddin Ahmad has rightly pointed finger to the 'persons responsible' for making irresponsible appointments as though distributing charities without caring if the appointees are fit for the job. The appointments were made more than two years ago. Immediately after the appointments conscious members of the Supreme Court Bar Association reacted strongly. Standing legal provisions, even, as to the requirement of regular practice for 5 years or 10 years as the case may be for appointment as Assistant Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General have been trampled on by the Government whom the people granted two-third majority in the parliament. The 'Persons responsible' have only considered the date of enrolment as an Advocate to count 5 years or 10 years of practice for the purpose of the appointments in question without at all seeing the actual and regular practice. Thus persons having actual regular practice of less than 3 years in the High Court Division have been appointed as Deputy Attorney General for Bangladesh.

Not only the duly qualified persons have been deprived of their rightful claim to the offices of the law officers but the institution of justice has also been damaged which, today, stands proved. There is none to disaffirm this reality. The learned Judges do not get necessary assistance from the law officers and almost every day we find serious annoyance in the court rooms. If such Deputy Attorney Generals are elevated to the Bench the conscience of the nation will suffer further.

On 5th February, 2004 I had the opportunity to hear the learned Attorney General Mr. A. F. Hassan Ariff, being called up, in his office. He, in course of discussion, expressed his anxiety as to poor performance of the law officers. To improve the situation, he added, that the Government has decided not to appoint Deputy Attorney Generals directly rather they would be promoted from the Assistant Attorney Generals on the basis of their performance standard. We must thank the persons in the Government, at least, for their anxiety. But now the question is who will assess the performance standard and on what basis? If the Government wishes to assess the performance standard of the law officers without any rules then who will assess the standard of the Government? Because the Government has proved that power means pick and choose from those who are skilled in rat race. Another important question is if the already appointed law officers are not go away then how conscious and capable one from among the members of the Bar will join the office of the Attorney General as Assistant Attorney General?. The way remains open in that case is to bring the Assistant public prosecutors (App) by promotion as Assistant Attorney General because no competent practitioner in the Supreme Court will accept humiliation being subordinate to those without requisite qualifications. Similarly the benches of the Supreme Court might be, according to them, filled up by the judges of the Sub-ordinate Courts on promotion.

However in the greater interest I wish to put forward some suggestions to ensure performance standard of the law officers. The longer procedure of removal of a law officer from the office should be curtailed. A Council headed by the learned Attorney General with two Additional Attorney General should be vested with powers to take effective measures. Such Council will review, once in a month, the performance standard of the Deputy Attorney Generals and Assistant Attorney Generals. This might keep the law officers vigilant to achieve better performance standard.

Muhammad Samsul Hoque is an Advocate of the Supreme Court.


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