The country’s highest court, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, has three-quarters of the vacancies. Of the 11 posts, seven are currently vacant. Justice Mohammad Iman Ali, who was deprived of the post of Chief Justice due to his seniority, has gone on long leave and now there are three judges in the Appellate Division. As a result, the speedy disposal of cases pending before the Appellate Division and extension of the bench will be hampered till the appointment of a judge.
When asked, Law Minister Anisul Haque told Samakal, “There is a need to appoint a judge in the Appellate Division. His Excellency the President appointed a judge. He will be informed about the matter. I hope the President will decide on this soon.
Meanwhile, a three-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by newly-appointed Chief Justice Hasan Fayez Siddiqui will begin regular proceedings from Sunday. The total number of judges working in the Appellate Division till December 15 was five. Then the regular vacation in the high court began. Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain retired on December 30. On the same day, President Md. Abdul Hamid appointed Justice Hasan Fayez Siddiqui of the Appellate Division as the Chief Justice with constitutional powers.
For a long time, cases were settled in two benches of the Appellate Division. One of the benches was headed by the outgoing Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and the second bench was headed by Justice Mohammad Iman Ali. Now the number of benches in the Appellate Division has been fixed at one. The main reason is the shortage of judges. As per the practice of the Supreme Court, cases of the two benches of the High Court are disposed of by a bench consisting of more judges in the Appellate Division. At this stage, if any member of the three-judge bench of the Appellate Division is unable to perform his duties due to illness or other reasons, the normal proceedings may be disrupted. Justice Iman Ali, who is on long-term leave, will retire on December 31 this year.
Regarding the shortage of judges in the Appellate Division, AM Amin Uddin, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Attorney General, told Samakal, “Everyone concerned is aware of the crisis in the Appellate Division. The Chief Justice has just taken charge. Hopefully, those concerned will take steps to appoint a judge soon.
Manzil Morshed, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, told Samakal: “The President has fixed the number of judges in the Appellate Division at 11. It is not clear why the government delayed the appointment. Thousands of cases are pending in the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division needs to have three benches, not two. Then the suffering of the candidates would have been lessened and it would have been possible to resolve most of the cases.
According to the Supreme Court, 15,626 cases are pending in the Appellate Division. Judgments were conducted in two benches of the Appellate Division in cases of corona infection. It is learned that during the Awami League government in 1996, the number of judges in the Appellate Division was five, but later the BNP came to power and increased the number of judges to seven. But the trial was disrupted when some judges were embarrassed at the appeal hearing of the Bangabandhu murder case. In 2009, the Awami League government increased the number of judges in the Appellate Division to 11 to expedite the trial of the Bangabandhu murder case and the pending cases.
The Constitution does not specify the number of judges in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. According to the constitution, the President appoints judges at different times as per the advice and requirements of the Chief Justice. Regarding the appointment of judges, in accordance with Article 94 (2) of the Constitution, the President determines and appoints the number of judges in the Appellate Division and the High Court Division of the Supreme Court. The article states, “The Supreme Court shall consist of the Chief Justice (who shall be called the ‘Chief Justice of Bangladesh’) and the number of other judges as the President may require for the appointment of seats in each division.” According to the constitution, a judge can hold office till the age of six.