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Bangladesh opposition protests on parliament’s authority to impeach judges

DHAKA: Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s 20-party opposition alliance on Monday announced a three-day nationwide programs protesting the government’s move to restore the parliament’s authority in impeaching apex court judges, reviving an old provision stipulated in the country’s original constitution of 1972.  
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed made the announcement of the protest programs at a press conference on Monday, saying the current Parliament has been formed through a voter-less election amid boycott by the then main opposition BNP and its allies.
“Any decision to amend constitution to empower parliament members to impeach apex court judges will be the decision of ruling Bangladesh Awami League party only as 154 lawmakers elected unopposed in the Jan. 5 general elections,” he said.
In protest against the government’s move, he said the opposition leaders and activists will stage demonstrations across the country excluding Dhaka city on Tuesday.    
They will stage demonstrations at 18 points in the capital on Wednesday and also form human chains across the country on Aug. 30, he said.
The Bangladeshi Cabinet on Aug. 18 gave its nod to the draft of the Constitution (16th amendment) Act- 2014 to amend the country’s constitution to empower parliament members to impeach apex court judges, a step the opposition described as an attempt to mute dissenting voices.
Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir blamed the bill for trying to  curb the independence of the judiciary.
Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan had then advocated the proposal, saying it will help raising public confidence in the independence of the judiciary system.
In Bangladesh’s 1972 Constitution, Article 96 allowed Parliament to impeach Supreme Court judges for proven offenses or incapability by a vote of a two-thirds majority.
Late President Ziaur Rahman, founder of BNP, canceled it and bestowed the power to a Supreme Judicial Council through the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution According to the existing constitutional provision, the Supreme Judicial Council comprising the chief justice and two other senior most judges of the Appellate Division investigates allegations of misconduct against any judge and makes necessary recommendations to the president. The president then takes steps as per the suggestions.

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