Arrest warrant against Bangladesh’s first Hindu chief justice

Wednesday 08th January 2020 05:59 EST

DHAKA: A court in Bangladesh issued an arrest warrant against Bangladesh’s first Hindu chief justice, Surendra Kumar Sinha, on charges of embezzling 4,00,00000 taka. Sinha has been in the crosshairs of the Awami League Party government in Bangladesh since his 2017 verdict clipped parliament’s wings in removing SC judges, causing a political storm in the country.

In 2015, Sinha became the first Hindu chief justice of Bangladesh, and the 21st occupant of the office since the country’s independence from Pakistan in 1971. Before becoming chief justice, Sinha delivered many important judgments, including on the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founder, and the validity of the 5th, 7th, and 13th amendments to the constitution. In the Mujibur Rahman case, the court sentenced the 12 killers of the leader to capital punishment. After his elevation, a five-member bench headed by Sinha in 2016 upheld the death sentence of a top Islamist leader for war crimes during the 1971 independence struggle, paving the way for his execution.

In July 2017, when Sinha was chief justice, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court annulled the 16th amendment to the constitution, which empowered parliament to impeach SC judges for misconduct or incapacity. The judgment miffed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who came down heavily on Sinha and accused him of “humiliating” the country. The ruling Awami League accused him of corruption and misuse of power, allegations that Sinha denied.

Later in October, Sinha left Bangladesh for Australia, calling his leave “temporary”. A day after his departure, the Supreme Court issued a statement saying other judges of the court had decided not to sit on the bench with Sinha, over allegations of graft and moral lapses against him brought to their notice by President Abdul Hamid. The country’s Law minister subsequently announced a probe against Sinha.

In November, Sinha resigned while he was abroad, three months before the completion of his tenure, and alleged he was forced to do so because he opposed the country’s “undemocratic” and “authoritarian” regime. He has been in exile ever since. In July this year, the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case against Sinha and 10 others on charges of laundering Tk 4 crore. Sinha sought asylum in Canada a few days later. Earlier, speaking at the launch of his autobiography in the US, Sinha had urged India to support the rule of law and democracy in Bangladesh, calling the incumbent Awami League government “autocratic'.

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