B'desh SC summons 2 ministers for contempt of court

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Dhaka, March 8: Bangladesh's Supreme court today summoned two senior ministers for making "contemptuous comments" against the chief justice during a debate over the appeal hearing of a top Islamist leader sentenced to death for the 1971 war crimes.

Food Minister Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister A K M Mozammel Haque were ordered by a nine-member bench of the Appellate Division to appear before the court on March 15 and explain as to why legal actions would not be taken against them for their comments, which tantamount to contempt of court.

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"Their comments undermined the dignity and prestige of the Supreme Court and the chief justice's office...their unholy and contemptuous comments stunned the judges of the top court," Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha said in the order.

The court also asked the two ministers to submit in writing their explanations over their own comments a day ahead of their personal appearance on the dock.

The two ministers during a discussion had criticised the chief justice after Sinha, during the appeal hearing of death sentence convict Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart and media tycoon Mir Quasem Ali, on February 23 expressed dissatisfaction over the poor performance of prosecutors and investigators in dealing with war crimes cases.

Minister Qamrul alleged the chief justice was openly speaking in the language of BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and their lobbyists by questioning the investigation quality.

The other minister went even further to say that the chief justice should not be delivering the verdict in the appeal of war criminal Quasem.

The Appellate Division today came up with the suo motu order before it sat for delivering the judgment on the appeal hearing of Quasem against his death sentence for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War with Pakistan.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the death sentence of Quasem, who was convicted of murder and abduction during Bangladesh's liberation war. The two ministers comments had sparked an uproar in the political and judicial arenas.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a cabinet meeting yesterday snubbed the two ministers for "embarrassing" the government through their comments, saying the government did not own their "private comments".

Quasem headed a media corporation aligned with Jamaat before his arrest in 2012. He was convicted of running a militia torture cell, Al Badr, that carried out killings of several people.

Officially, three million people were killed by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators during the 1971 liberation war.

PTI 

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