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Former chief justice's book causes furore in Bangladesh

Sinha accuses security agencies of intimidating judges to deliver favorable rulings

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Former chief justice's book causes furore in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Attorney General Mahbubey Alam (center) walks through the Supreme Court in this 2016 file picture. He has accused Surendra Kumar Sinha of tarnishing the reputation of the judiciary. (Photo by Munir uz Zaman/AFP) 

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The autobiography of Bangladesh's former chief justice has become a topic of heated debate in the country.

Surendra Kumar Sinha's book, A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy, was published on Sept. 19. It is only available in digital format through Kindle.

In the book, among other things, Sinha alleges that state security agencies intimidate judges to deliver judgments in favor of the government. He also claims that the country's powerful military intelligence agency DGFI threatened him to resign from his post and forced him to leave the country last year.

Ruling Awami League ministers and officials denied the allegations and described them as "fabricated and baseless."

"S.K. Sinha has published this book out of his frustration. He was at the center of a group that wanted to stage a judicial coup to destabilize the government, and that power was defeated," Law Minister Anisul Huq told journalists on Sept. 21.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said Sinha has tarnished the image of the judiciary. "Sinha's comments and allegations are baseless and unacceptable," Alam told journalists in Dhaka on Sept. 25.

Rights activists and church officials say Sinha's allegations must be taken seriously.

"Sinha's departure from the Supreme Court and the country was unusual and raised lots of questions," Holy Cross Father Liton Gomes, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission in Dhaka Archdiocese, told ucanews.com.

"It is a well-known fact that Sinha wanted to make the judiciary independent and free from executive influence and in the process he clashed with the government. The government must reveal the truth and defend its position."

Monjil Morshed, a Supreme Court lawyer, said Sinha's book reveals truths in the law and justice system.

"What Sinha wrote in the book is nothing new but he had the courage to speak out. The tug-of-war between the judiciary and the executive is long-running and intensifying. The reality is that the government is resorting to undemocratic policies and practices to prolong its hold on power and attempts to control the judiciary are just a part of the play," Morshed told ucanews.com.

Nur Khan, a Dhaka-based rights activist, also called for the "whole truth" to be revealed.

"Sinha's comments and allegations are serious, and they are creating lots of noise as his departure from the judiciary and the country was abnormal. The government must reveal the truth and take actions. If Sinha's allegations are true, justice must be done and if he told lies, he must face prosecution," Khan told ucanews.com.

Sinha, 67, was chief justice of the Supreme Court from Jan. 17, 2015, to Nov. 11, 2017.

He is the first and only member of a religious minority (Hindu) and an ethnic minority (Monipuri) to serve as chief justice since Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Once known as an ally of the Awami League, Sinha fell out with the government amid a long-running power struggle between the executive and judicial branches of the establishment.

He faced a political backlash and character assassination from ruling party ministers, lawmakers and supporters after July 3 last year when a six-member Supreme Court bench headed by Sinha declared the 16th amendment to the constitution to be "illegal and unconstitutional."

The 2014 amendment restored parliament's authority to impeach and remove Supreme Court judges for misconduct or incapacity.

Sinha branded the country's parliamentary democracy as dysfunctional and described parliamentarians as immature, triggering further attacks.

Sinha went on leave on Oct. 3 and moved to Australia on Oct. 13. Bangladeshi media speculated that leave was forced on him, but the government said he was on leave for treatment of cancer.

On Oct. 14, the Supreme Court released a statement citing 11 charges against him including money laundering, financial irregularities, corruption and moral turpitude.

On Nov. 11, Sinha sent his resignation letter to President Abdul Hamid, about two months before his official retirement. Sinha moved to Canada from Australia and currently lives in the U.S.

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