The International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday disposed of two separate contempt of court petitions against ruling Awami League leaders Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury and Matia Chowdhury with some observations.
The three-member tribunal headed by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir with members Justice Obaidul Hassan and Judge M Shahinur Islam said top post holders in the government should behave with more restraint and be careful in making comments on a sub-judice matter.
The tribunal expected that "responsible persons" should in future show prudence by restraining themselves from setting imaginary time limit for disposal of a sub-judice matter "in the interest of upholding independence of the tribunal and fair justice".
Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah filed a contempt of court petition on August 5 against Sajeda, deputy leader of the House. His party colleague Muhammad Kamaruzzaman filed the other contempt petition against Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury on August 29 for allegedly making a statement discourteous to the tribunal.
One or two of those charged with committing war crimes should be hanged to prevent them from taking advantage of the loopholes in the legal process, reported Daily Amar Desh on July 28 quoting Sajeda as telling a public rally.
Those who would give testimony in favour of war criminals would be identified and a resistance movement would be organised against them, a report of Daily Naya Diganta on August 8 quoted Matia as saying in another public programme.
During hearing, the defence said their statements in public rallies constituted a "clear obstruction of the process and interference in the administration of justice".
But counsels of Matia and Sajeda said the reports, on the basis of which the defence brought the contempt charges, did not publish their clients' speeches "fully and properly".
On November 7, the tribunal fixed yesterday to determine whether it will initiate contempt of court proceedings against the ruling party leaders.
Passing the order on the petition against Matia, Justice Obaidul Hassan said the court accepted Sajeda's explanation that the alleged comment was not the outcome of her own thoughts and she merely echoed the public emotion without any intention to cause prejudice to the defence case.
"We are inclined to observe that the right to freedom of speech as guaranteed in our constitution is not absolute and unfettered and it is to be exercised with some restrictions and caution," Justice Hassan added.
"We expect that a responsible person holding significant government portfolio should be restrained and careful in making any such comments on a sub-judice matter to get rid of general public baffle," Justice Hassan observed.
Passing an order on the petition against Sajeda, Judge M Shahinur Islam said the court agreed that the alleged comment did not appear to be of such nature which may tend to prejudice the accused's case and as such the application, in the strict sense, did not come within the ambit of section 11 (4) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973.
"Despite that, a responsible person holding dignified and significant position in parliament is not expected to make such a comment even in the name of echoing public opinion or perception," said the judge.
"With the above observations, the application is disposed of instead of initiating further proceedings," say both the orders.