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Bangladesh Chief Justice resigns amid criticism over constitutional amendment verdict 

Dhaka, Nov 11 (IANS) Bangladesh’s Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has resigned, six weeks after he went on long leave amid criticism by the ruling party over his decision to scrap Parliament’s authority to impeach Supreme Court judges.

The President’s office said on Saturday that it had received a letter of resignation from Sinha, who is abroad.

Sinha, the country’s first Hindu Chief Justice in Muslim majority Bangladesh, took office on January 17, 2015. His tenure was to end in January next year, Bdnews24.com reported.

He came under fire from the ruling Awami League party after the top court in July this year scrapped the 16th constitutional amendment, stripping the Parliament of its power to impeach apex court judges. 

Ruling party leaders also attacked Sinha for his observations on Bangladesh’s politics, past dictatorships, Election Commission, corruption, governance and judiciary in the verdict.

The Awami League accused him of “belittling” the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in some of the observations.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Premier Khaleda Zia had welcomed the verdict, which restored the Supreme Judicial Council provision in the Constitution, a system introduced during the party founder Ziaur Rahman’s military rule to sack top court judges. 

Sinha sat in his office for the last time on August 24 before the annual vacation of the apex court started. The government announced his “sick” leave on October 3, a day before the vacation ended.

He left Bangladesh for Australia on October 13, to stay with his eldest daughter Suchana Sinha.

Before leaving, he issued a statement, saying he was “not sick” and was “quite embarrassed” about how a specific political quarter, including some ministers and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself, had criticised him over one of the verdict. 

On October 2, the Chief Justice applied to President Md Abdul Hamid for a one-month leave that ended on November 1.

While on leave, the CJ requested the President to extend his leave till November 10, which ended on Friday.

On August 1, the Supreme Court had published the full verdict on the annulment of the 16th amendment to the constitution.

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir accused the government of forcing Sinha to go abroad to “establish its full control over the judiciary”.

“It’s now clear to the entire nation that the government has taken all the steps to send the Chief Justice abroad by force,” Alamgir said.

A day after Sinha’s departure, the Supreme Court in a rare statement described Sinha’s statement as “misleading”.

According to the apex court, Sinha faces 11 specific charges, including graft, money laundering and moral lapse, for which his colleagues in the Appellate Division refused to work with him.

A government order said President Abdul Hamid appointed Justice Abdul Wahhab Miah as the acting Chief Justice. He will perform the duties until a new appointment.

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