Book Review: A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha 


A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy, Sep 16, 2018
by Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha
Kindle Edition US $9.99

Updated 20 September, 2018   0600

Justice Sinha was born in Moulavibazar district in the northeast Bangladesh where he grew up in a family of six siblings, five brothers and one sister.  His father was a dedicated teacher and a scholar of the Hindu religion. During Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, he experienced the same hardships as most Bangladeshi youths at the time. He pursued a law degree from Sylhet Law College without his father’s consent. His father could not imagine, an ideal teacher’s son could become a lawyer and make a living by lying. He believed the lawyers make a living by lying. From this backdrop Surendra Kumar Sinha rose to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The book eloquently portrays his life’s journey and the final confrontation with a political furor with the Awami League government in 2017 that led him to exile.

The 1972 constitution of Bangladesh ensured the separation of the judiciary from the executive that suggested the independence of the court from the executive interference. Both civilian and military dictators were opposed to the judicial independence and exerted undue influence on the judicial independence. The judiciary has undergone significant changes in the past four decades with the inclusion of highly skilled individuals, the introduction of technology, challenging the culture of impunity by trying the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the war criminals, to name a few.

Chief Justice Sinha had the opportunity to observe all these changes in the judiciary since 1974 – rising from a practitioner at a lower court to the highest judicial position of Bangladesh, the Chief Justice of the Bangladesh Supreme Court and most importantly, it is the current government that has forced him out of his office is the one that appointed Justice Sinha at this highest judicial position of the country. Given the current autocratic nature of the government they probably expected Justice Sinha, a member of the minority community to tow government line. However, this was not to be and that led to Justice Sinha’s forced resignation from the position of Chief Justice on…and his decision to go into self-exile, first to Australia where his daughter and son-in-law live and currently, to USA.

Justice Sinha’s Book, ‘A Broken Dream’ describes the backdrop of his ‘resignation’ and also makes insightful observations on Bangladesh’s numerous social and political issues including its evolving state of governance.

The beginning of the trouble

After a historic verdict given by Justice Sinha on…that upheld the independence of the judiciary, Sinha was forced to leave the country and resign and exiled by the present government. There were a series of unprecedented events leading to the tension between the executive and the judiciary that led into action against the sitting Chief Justice on September 22, 2014, when the parliament amended the constitution empowering the parliament to impeach the judges of the higher judiciary. The sixteenth amendment deleted the provision of removal of the judges through an influential committee of peers known as the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). This process was intended to protect the judges from political interference. On May 5, 2016, a special bench in the high court by a majority declared the amendment unconstitutional. Soon after the verdict, the Members of the Parliament blasted the judges and began displaying disrespect to the judiciary. On an appeal by the state, a seven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Sinha on July 3, 2017, unanimously dismissed the appeal upholding the High Court Division’s verdict.

On September 13, 2017, the parliament passed a resolution calling for legal steps to nullify the verdict. The Prime Minister and the other members of the parliament blasted the Chief Justice Sinha for going against the parliament and accused him of misconduct and corruption. While he was confined to his residence, the lawyers and judges were prevented from visiting him. Various ministers suggested he leave the country on medical leave. Finally, he was compelled to leave the country on October 14, 2017.
During his departure, the Chief Justice made bold statements to the press, he was neither unwell nor sought a medical leave.

Facing intimidation and threats to his family from the Directorate General of the Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Sinha submitted his resignation on 11th November 2017. He sent a letter of resignation while he is vacationing in Australia to President Abdul Hamid which has been confirmed. The same President announced Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha is facing 11 charges, including money laundering and corruption, a day after he left the country for Australia Oct 13, 2017. In a public statement just before his departure for Australia, the Chief Justice said he is ‘not sick,’ but that he is leaving because he is ‘embarrassed’ and is concerned over the independence of the judiciary.

The opposition leaders of the nation believe with some justification that the Chief Justice was forced out of the office owing to his Observations in a deliberation earlier last month.

Sinha’s Observations and Analyses

The Chief Justice of the country Mr. Surendra Kumar Sinha recently wrote an opinion: “Parliamentary democracy is immature and to attain its maturity, there is a necessity of practicing parliamentary democracy continuing for 4/5 terms!”. He was implying on the issue of the 154 unelected parliamentary members and thereby reflecting on the legitimacy of the present government. The political scientists believe, having an election under such management could not be fair.

Whatever semblance of independence of the judiciary was there in Bangladesh, it has been eroded by ejecting the Chief Justice of the supreme court by sending him on a forced vacation at a crucial time. One senior minister said that the sitting judges are “immature.” Another said that the Chief Justice should be sent to a lunatic asylum. A third one said that the judgment was perhaps written by another English knowing editor or by the ISI of Pakistan. Another called the Chief Justice a Razakar who helped the then the Pakistani government while Bangladeshis were in the liberation struggle

The present government has neutralized all other organs of the state; military, police, civil servants and all administrations to the lowest cadres at the local level. Election Commission has been made into a tool for implementation of the wishes of the government. If the next election is not conducted in a fair and secure atmosphere, Bangladesh will be lost in the darkness of authoritarianism for an unforeseeable future. Ordinary Bangladeshi citizens are just riders on a rudderless vessel. With the Chief Justice Sinha out of the way, there is not a single individual that can stand up to the most influential person in Bangladesh; the 35th dominant female in the world according to Forbes magazine. This award has emboldened her, and she became a source of pride for her party stalwarts.

The book portrays the struggle of the judiciary to protect its independence in contrast to the erosion of values in judicial service and political corruption.

Sinha’s critics in the government accused him of treason claiming that by giving a verdict that directly challenged the locus standi of the government, he apparently, attempted to topple the government by hatching a conspiracy. Sinha states that an Army Officer constantly kept threatening him and his family. Even though the government was successful in overthrowing him; he says, they were unable to belittle him. The government set a dangerous precedent which could have far-reaching consequences.

With the departure of Sinha the Supreme Court has been virtually turned into a department under the Ministry of Law. Once an institution is broken, it is difficult to bring it back to its original position.

‘Broken Dream’ is a must read for those that are interested in studying the emerging pattern of politics of Bangladesh and how a number of factors, both internal and external, are contributing to its march towards authoritarianism.

South Asia Journal

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    Saikat Zaman
    September 20, 2018, 12:34 am

    Waste of time.This book is totally unworthy

      Nahid Reja@Saikat Zaman
      September 21, 2018, 5:07 am

      Tremendous effort to explore the truth of brutal hasina:s regime.

      Sayed Enayet karim@Saikat Zaman
      September 22, 2018, 3:14 am

      How I can get a PDF copy of Broken Dream

    Md.Ahshan Habib
    September 22, 2018, 2:09 am

    How i can get it pdf file? Plz send me.

    September 22, 2018, 6:57 am

    How I can get a PDF copy?

    Advocate M A Aziz Khan
    September 22, 2018, 10:17 pm

    Honorable Mr.Chief Justice’s book definitely reveals all that happened with him but many areas are still unknown.In the third world country where the rule of law lacks, the highest positions in the government is given on political considerations "on give and take basis". Understandably, mutual performance of the contract is expected to be ensured. In a republic having constitutional supremacy, government’s interest is to keep the judiciary at bay from judicial review of the government actions, which are contrary to the Constitution and laws. The citizens’s or county’s interest is of no consideration as the government are not represented by the people through direct votes in the last election. When the writ is brought to the Supreme Court that the election has been rigged or only 15 percent voters turned out for the biggest opposition party boycotted, the Supreme Court decided that the election is legally done without considering that a law comprises two essential parts-letter and spirit and both elements must be satisfied to call it is done as per law. In letter, general election is supposed to be done through direct vote of the franchise in a free,fair, inclusive and credible election; and in spirit the election result must depict the real representation of the voters which is the object of the law. Present Government against whom he brought the allegation of mistreating and forced exile, comprises a 300 seat parliament where 152 (majority) are elected unopposed with 15% turn out of voters, biggest opposition party boycotted. so, according to the law the election was illegal and the members were illegal as well. Entire world knew of it and independent election observers did not come. Had there been a real judiciary, in such case it had the duty to declare, on its own initiative, the election void as unconstitutional and directed a reelection. But this did not happen as part of mutual contract when this parliament (representing only 15% voters) is regularly making laws to be applied to 100% people. The opposition having boycotted the election only party in position divided themselves into a domestic opposition to make a novel kind of parliament unseen in any countries of the world having Westminster type Parliamentary system. Mr. Chief Justice Sinha had the blessing for the government and issued free cheques only on occasional annoyance on the parliament or government. But at the fag end of his office, he did not tow the line of the government when the Government was not willing to comply with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution on the independence of judiciary in land mark Masdar Hossain case. On many occasions the learned Judges criticized law making by the Parliament in minutes causing annoyance to the Parliament. The Parliament having angry with such criticism on law making from the Supreme Court judges, decided to disciple the Supreme Court Judges and enacted 16th amendment of the Constitution. This time he stood fast siding the interests of the Judges and the judicial independence of Bangladesh. On judicial review said amendment was declared unconstitutional and void and thus picked up row with the Government and faced all these difficulties. Nothing would have happened to him and he could retire with great farewell, had he dismissed the review application challenging the 16th amendment. But at the end I must say he could not become a good lawyer when he could not dispel from his father’s notion that lawyers live on lie. In my 27 years legal practice including brief time in Canadian judiciary i never lived on lie because it is dishonorable and unethical for the lawyers to lie.

    September 23, 2018, 3:00 am

    Need bangla version copy .


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