The chief justice, Hasan Foez Siddique, will retire on September 25 with a number of cases of political and public importance having been pending with the highest court.
Lawyers said that the cases remained pending with the chief justice-led Appellate Division bench hearing until August 31 when Justice Hasan Foez was felicitated by lawyers on his last working day in the courtroom.
The outgoing chief justice, in his reply to the felicitations, told lawyers that his successor might face serious challenges.
‘I think that the almighty Allah will make him able to tackle those challenges and he would make this judiciary more dynamic,’ said the outgoing chief justice.
‘You know that huge number of cases remain pending with courts. My plan, as the chief justice, will be how the backlog of pending cases can be reduced,’ Justice Obaidul Hassan told reporters at his official residence on September 13, a day after his appointment as the 24th chief justice.
The significant cases pending with the Appellate Division include cases relating the 16th amendment to the constitution, cancellation of registration of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, oath of lawmakers of the 11th parliament before dissolution of the 10th parliament, guidelines on arrest and remand and mobile court operation by executive magistrates.
A number of senior lawyers, including former Supreme Court Bar Association secretary AM Mahbub Uddin said that those cases might have remained pending as those were ‘sensitive’ ones.
‘The old cases must be heard on priority basis according to the practice of the court,’ said former Appellate Division judge AHM Shamsudidn Chowdhury.
He said that the court might have not heard those cases because of the huge backlog of pending cases.
Every case is important to the court, said Justice Shamsuddin.
He, however, said that some of those significant cases should have been disposed of earlier.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik said that the court alone could not hear and dispose of a case without the willingness of both the parties.
‘If any of the parties thinks that there will be no possibility of winning the case, the party concerned tries to linger the case on various excuses,’ he added.
The 16th amendment case has been pending with the Appellate Division since December 24, 2017, when the government filed a petition for a review of the Appellate Division verdict that declared illegal the 16th amendment and scrapped the parliament’s authority to remove SC judges.
The Appellate Division was scheduled for October 20, 2022, and August 10, 2023 to hear the review petition but the hearing was not held.
The Jammat appeal against High Court verdict declaring its registration as political party illegal has been pending for 10 years.
Supreme Court lawyer Tania Amir, who appeared for Bangladesh Tariqat Federation secretary general Syed Rezaul Haque Chandpury for banning the Jamaat, sought an expeditious hearing of the appeal on three occasions between January 16, 2023 and August 2, 2023.
Justice Shamsuddin said that the Jamaat appeal should have been heard earlier.
Tania Amir said that the way the apex court allowed Jamaat’s appeal to lose the court’ priority from hearing, there might have given a cause to the public to raise a question whether there was any pressure on the judiciary.
There can never be any legitimate pressure on the judiciary from the executive branch of the state or any quarter, she said.
Another government petition for a review of a verdict that issued 19 guidelines on arrest and remand of suspects is also pending with the Appellate Division.
On July 13, the apex court accepted the review petition filed by the home ministry and the inspector general of police seeking a review of the verdict it pronounced in 2017.
The Appellate Division on January 9, 2018 stayed a High Court verdict that had declared illegal the operation of mobile courts by executive magistrates until disposal of a government petition to appeal against the HC verdict. The government petition is, however, yet to be heard, said writ petitioners’ lawyer Hassan MS Azim
The Appellate Division was scheduled for August 9, 2023 to hear a contempt petition against SC lawyer and Dhaka South city mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh for claiming that he had removed former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha. The petition is yet to be heard, said lawyer Mohsen Rashid, who moved the petition on behalf of Supreme Court Bar Association.
Pro-Awami League lawyer Md Nazmul Huda on August 29 filed the contempt petition against seven pro-Bangladesh Nationalist Party lawyers for holding demonstrations on the Supreme Court premises demanding removal of the two judges.
The Appellate Division bench led by chief justice Hassan Foez Siddique posted for October 19 the hearing of the petition.
The SCBA president Momtaz Uddin Fakir said that the chief justice could not hear and dispose of all the cases during his 20-month tenure since January 2, 2022.
‘The new chief justice will hear the cases which could not be heard by his predecessor,’ he added.
Former law minister Shafique Ahmed said that it was the duty of the lawyers to urge the court for expeditious hearing of their cases.
Attorney general AM Amin Uddin said that none should cast any doubt over the pending cases as they would be heard later.