AL up in arms against scrapping amendment

Anwar Hossain | Update:

Awami LeagueRuling Awami League is going all out to question the judgement which has scrapped the 16th amendment to the constitution.

The party sees politics in the judgement’s observations and even smell a possible conspiracy.

Quarters within Awami League (AL) contend that before resorting to legal measures, the weaknesses of the judgement must be publicly exposed.

Ministers, party leaders and pro-AL lawyers have taken up the task of castigating the verdict at every opportunity.

Senior AL leaders at a meeting chaired by party president, prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the Gonobhaban on Thursday, also discussed the strategy to counter the judgement.

Leaders within AL state that the main consideration is no longer whether or not the Supreme Judicial Council’s power to impeach judges will be restored. It is the observations made on the judgement and the views that have become more important to the party.

These, according to them, are the targets of criticism. AL is also prepared to counter any reaction to the judgement from the BNP or other quarters.

The AL wants its 14 party allies by its side while politically tackling the judgement. A meeting of the 14 party alliance has been summoned at the AL's Dhanmondi office on Sunday. Detailed discussions will be held on the weak points of the verdict. AL central leaders have also instructed pro-AL lawyers in the districts to highlight the weaknesses of this judgement.

An AL leader, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that the AL is not taking the matter lightly. They feel if they fail to tackle this effectively, there will be even harder challenges to face before the general elections. They are determined to make the judgement questionable.

The ruling party feels there are two aspects to the judgement concerning the 16th amendment, one legal and the other political. The government and AL are more concerned about the political aspect. As it is, the BNP is using this to criticise the government. The government will also gradually look into the legal aspects and a review can be sought eventually.

AL presidium member and health minister Mohammed Nasim told Prothom Alo that the legal aspects of the matter will be tackled legally. "But there can certainly be a response since the observations on the judgement raised issues concerning Bangabandhu, the Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) and the members of parliament. And the manner in which the BNP has taken this up politically, will also be tackled politically," he said.

The government and the AL had remained silent for almost a week after the full judgement scrapping the 16th amendment was published on 1 August. During informal discussions, the cabinet expressed anger and dissatisfaction about the judgement and about the observations of the chief justice, Surendra Kumar Sinha. After that the ministers have been openly castigating the judgement.

The law commission chairman and former chief justice, Khairul Huq, on Wednesday publicly criticised the verdict. On the same day, an AL press conference termed the judgement as unexpected and unwarranted, saying that it gave BNP the occasion to use this politically. On Thursday, law minister Anisul Huq highlighted the government stance, telling a press conference that political leaders could respond to the political statements made in the observation.

AL insiders said that initially the party was ready for an understanding and party leaders had met the chief justice after the judgement was passed. However, as this did not yield any results, they had decided to openly question the verdict.

AL presidium member and former state minister for law Abdul Matin Khasru told Prothom Alo that their lawyers are scrutinising the judgement in detail. They are working on all alternatives and this is the party’s position so far. And on an individual level, anyone can give his/her views on the judgement.

Persons present at the meeting said that the legal aspects of the judgement are being subject to detailed scrutiny as many of the remarks made in the observations were not raised during the hearing. Some leaders advised taking up a case if need be. Sheikh Hasina has instructed that the judgement be studied in further detail.

At the Thursday meeting, Sheikh Hasina and public administration minister Syed Ashraful Islam observed that conspiracies were invariably hatched before the elections. There was no need to worry, they said, but there was need for caution.

AL advisory council member and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Yusuf Hossain Humayun told Prothom Alo, the observations on the judgement contain many unwarranted matter. The manner in which the BNP is politically manipulating the issue, there is no alternative but to come up with a counter response.

*The article originally came up in Prothom Alo print edition is rewritten by Ayesha Kabir

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