Rule of Law

Tributes to a scholar, a wise Jurist, and a role model of Bangladesh

7 mins read

Chief Justice SM Murshed was born on 11 January 1911. January 11, 2023 would be his 112th Birthday. He was a Bengali jurist and legal scholar who served as the Chief Justice of High Court in the-then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from 1964 to 1967.

We justify our privileged status as legal professionals only as we do justice for all our citizens, young and old, male or female, rich or poor, and without regard to ethnic or racial origin or to religious belief and Chief Justice Murshed strongly believed in this dictum.

He contributed immensely to our judiciary during his time. His demise 44 years back at 68 is indeed a great loss to the judicial fraternity specifically and the nation as a whole.

He was a towering Bengali and that his many accomplishments and contributions to the country were well documented, in particular when he was the Chief Justice and afterwards in life time.

He had written a number of landmark judgments.His judgments, which reflected his judicial independence accompanied by legal clarity and intellectual analysis, constitute a major contribution to our country’s jurisprudence and justice system.

Sharing the same thoughts by his votaries, former Chief Justice SM Murshed was known for his dedication and sharp legal mind and also was highly respected by those who had served under him.Although he was a strict man, everyone admired and respected him… ‘A man of principle, honest and holier-than-thou.

Though he was a tough boss, he was a very good man and had a kind heart. Those who knew him also described Justice Murshed as a man of principle, honest, of the highest integrity.

He would be all ears and heart to discuss legal issues. Many say with conviction that he was incorruptible, the most honest man in his entire life.He trained many to have moral courage and dignity. He was an argus-eyedman, but he was a giant in law and justice.

He was an exceptional gentleman, and a judge, then the Chief Justice of high integrity and good temperament during his days on the bench. His judgments are usually couched in very simple language, succinctly to the issues at hand, and often used as authoritative references by judges and lawyers.

He was a man of unfailing courtesy … he was also a kind, humble and elegant man – elegant in his style, in his thinking and in his writing. He brought to the bench a broad and deep knowledge of the law. As a lawyer, and then as a judge and finally as the Chief Justice…, he worked selflessly for a just outcome.The law was only one of many facets to his Honour’s life.

He believed that the important point to keep in mind is that this judicial branch is not the servant of lawyers, or judges, of clerks, of non-judicial employees, but of the people. Without a functioning judicial branch there can be no constitutional democracy. Without a judicial branch there is no liberty, no peace, no order, no guarantee of fairness. Without an independent judiciary even those citizens who never go to court will be at risk in their lives, their liberty and their property. The loss of a functioning judicial branch is a loss that our society cannot survive.

Considering the magnitude of the challenges the judge faced when he became chief, his administrative accomplishments were extraordinary. With the help of many, he preserved the judiciary’s independence, strengthened its authority, and helped it adapt to the changing demands of justice.

Today, we remember not only Chief Justice SM Murshedas an enlightened and effective administrator, but also as an exemplary jurist, who created a body of law that will continue to affect the lives of our citizenry, and influence the courts in other jurisdictions, well into the future.

The chief introduced a distinct approach to judging. He recognized that courts were being asked to decide matters of fundamental importance to the human condition, that in the 60sthese matters were coming to the courts with increasing frequency because of the inability of other social and political institutions to resolve certain difficult and troubling issues. In addressing these issues, he was not satisfied to employ a mechanical application of legal doctrine. Rather, he sought new ideas, new perspectives, and in so doing, he relied on the best ideas in the history of human thought, spirit and imagination. His opinions were often peppered with references to great thinkers throughout history.

His opinions ring with energy, history, humour, real knowledge of real institutions, penetrating analysis, synthesizing will, an imagination balanced on the point at which what is becomes what can be. They have vision, and they have design. They teach, explain and persuade. Sometimes they sing.

His opinions are scholarly, but they are grounded in experience. They perpetuate ideals, but work in the practical world. They are generous without yielding in principle and tough without failing in mercy. They value the past at the moment they change it, and change outworn laws at justice’s command.

Murshed’s commitment to individual freedom is reflected in the trend he often led to find greater protections of individual freedom.His concern for human dignity is best illustrated by his opinions in cases involving.

He clearly interpreted that the constitutional right to privacy . . . is an expression of the sanctity of individual free choice and self-determination as fundamental constituents of life. The value of life as so perceived is lessened not by a decision to refuse treatment, but by the failure to allow a competent human being the right of choice.

He strongly believed in protecting the incompetent person within its power, the state must recognize the dignity and worth of such a person and afford to that person the same panoply of rights and choices it recognizes in competent persons.

He recognized the essential uniqueness of each human being when he concluded that the primary test is subjective in nature — that is, the goal is to determine with as much accuracy as possible the wants and needs of the individual involved. Significantly, in making this determination, he vehemently disapproved of an analysis that would equate the value of life with an individual’s quality of life.

In reaching this conclusion, he made a visionary observation about decision-making in a democracy that it is the diversity of opinion among individuals, some of whose concepts may well have been influenced by their group affiliations, which is envisioned when we refer to ‘diffused impartiality.’ No human being is wholly free of the interests and preferences which are the product of his cultural, family, and community experience. Nowhere is the dynamic commingling of the ideas and biases of such individuals more essential than inside the jury room.

By values, by vision, by strength of character, Justice Murshedwas the right person to lead this court through one of its most trying times and to so well prepare it for the challenging future that is now upon us. He loved this court, and this country.

He exhorted the legal profession to do justice for all our citizens, young and old, male or female, rich or poor, and without regard to ethnic or racial origin or to religious belief. And what he urged on others, he achieved himself. In this, he lived the imperative to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our Creator.

May it please the court. To summarize the life of any person is a difficult task, and one which each of us must undertake from our own perspective. But in the case ofMurshed, the task is compounded by his extraordinary nature, for he was one of the most exceptional people that our people have ever known.

Winston Churchill once said, “what we get is how we make a living, but what we give is how we make a life.” If that be the measure, then SM Murshed’slife was rich beyond description. As an extraordinary law school acclaimed scholar, internationally known barrister, and brilliant jurist, he gave everything he had to every undertaking, obligation, commitment, and relationship. There was nothing halfway or equivocal about him. And his measure as a caring, sensitive, thoroughly delightful human being was equally compelling.

Totally devoted to his family and his extended family of countless friends, he had a passion for people that was unsurpassed. He was frequently an anchor to the wind for those of people less strong.

It is not surprising that many great jurists were once great trial lawyers, and so it was withMurshed. He quickly established, by his great ability, his trial experience, and his scholarly pursuits, a reputation as an outstanding jurist – areputation as one of the country’s leading authorities on the laws of evidence.

He was a visionary who sought constant improvement in the judicial system and the ability to anticipate the needs of the future.

He was a man who was personally aggrieved by the injustices of this world and the plight of societies afflicted. He was a man of enormous talent who gave all of his heart, body, and soul to the judicial system of this country and his beloved High Court, which he led with such pride and great ability.

He was a man of principle and self-discipline. And when his friends hear words such as integrity, loyalty, honesty, decency, compassion, dedication, and justice, they know that these are not just pious platitudes that are sometimes over used, but rather these were… intimate friends, his constant companions, the guide posts by which he lived throughout his entire life.

From my perspective of my father who was a lucent lawyer during the British Regime in the Indian Sub-continent, Chief JusticeMurshed has my greatest admiration and respect for being everything that a noble profession would like to offer to the world. As our revered person as he is, he had my love for being everything that a great person can be.

Let it be recorded that Murshed lived and he lived life well and he lived it fully. And all of those whose lives he touched are the richer for it.

This confidante of the mighty and defender of the weak, this courageous judicial fighter and warm compassionate friend, this highly public person and highly private family man, made a great mark upon our times.

Although he was of a quiet and gentle nature, he was fearless in defense of what he believed to be right. He not only stood toe-to-toe with certain members of the Legislature in order to preserve an independent judiciary, but also fought to preserve his own reputation in the face of unsupported rumours and innuendo when he could have quietly remained aloof and pursued a very successful and remunerative career. He even stood up to the generals of the Pakistani junta at the risk of his personal safety and in his country.

He was, in short, a man for all seasons, quiet yet determined, open to persuasive argument but unwavering in defense of what he believed.

We miss him terribly and can’t believe that he’s gone. But his voice and his image remain with us. When troubled, we ask, “What would Justice Murshed do?” And when we ask that, we become larger, wiser, fiercer, more generous, and we set our eyes on the task ahead. Thank you, Chief Justice SM Murshed, for being a ray of sunshine even on our darkest days.

Sri Lanka: Pseudo-leftists  

5 mins read

Bopage, representing the FSP-controlled Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF), took part to raise human rights violations in Sri Lanka under the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The FSP jubilantly reported “comrade” Bopage’s intervention on its website.

The FSP intervention is tail-ending Washington’s use of Sri Lankan human rights violations as a pretext to pressure Colombo to line up with its strategic confrontation with China.

The UNHRC session is discussing its High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka and a resolution presented by several countries led by the US and UK. This resolution proposes an investigation into Sri Lanka’s “war crimes” and “economic crimes” and is scheduled to be put to the vote on October 6. The FSP has not criticised the resolution at any time or pointed to its underlying purpose.

The widely-despised Wickremesinghe was appointed as acting President by former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as he fled the country on July 13 after huge mass protests demanding his resignation. Wickremesinghe was then installed as President by an anti-democratic vote of the discredited parliament on July 21.

Wickremesinghe immediately intensified the crackdown on anti-government protesters ordering police and the military to violently evict those who had occupied the presidential secretariat. Police attacks were also unleashed on IUSF-organised protests in August. On August 22, Wickremesinghe imposed 90-day detention orders on a IUSF convener and two other activists under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The government is preparing to crush the widespread opposition of workers and rural masses to skyrocketing prices and shortages of essentials including fuel, food and medicines. It has signed a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that will only intensify the acute social crisis facing millions.

The FSP opposes the independent political mobilisation of the working class against the repression of the Wickremesinghe regime and the IMF austerity agenda. Instead, it has turned to the UNHRC, giving tacit support to Washington’s cynical “human rights” campaign and is cementing an alliance with Sri Lanka’s opposition parties that all support the IMF’s program.

In his brief address to the UNHRC, Bopage cited the Colombo government’s lack of “accountability” for war crimes, economic crimes and other human rights violations. To investigate and assure human rights in the country, he said the council should be “strengthening the existing measures and adopting new initiatives.” 

The FSP is deliberately covering up for the US, which is exploiting the UNHRC to advance its geostrategic interests and is also directly responsible for numerous bloody war crimes.

There is no question that successive Sri Lankan governments are responsible for war crimes and gross abuses of democratic rights during Colombo’s 26-year communal war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in May 2009.

During the final weeks of the war, then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who was defence secretary, presided over the killing of at least 40,000 Tamil civilians, according to UN estimates, and the disappearance of hundreds more. 

After the war, Washington sponsored several resolutions to pressure Mahinda Rajapaksa to break relations with Beijing. Washington was deeply hostile to his government’s ties with and dependence on funds and arms from China and wanted to bring Sri Lanka under the US strategic sway.

Failing these efforts, Washington sponsored a regime-change operation in 2015 with the support of Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga to oust Mahinda and install Maithripala Sirisena as president. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime shifted the Sri Lankan foreign policy markedly towards Washington.

After Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came to power in 2019, the US and UK sponsored another tough resolution on Sri Lanka that was passed in March last year. This resolution is currently being discussing in the UNHRC. Though Rajapaksa is no longer in power, the US is seeking to block any return of the Rajapaksas. Although the pro-US Wickremesinghe is president, he depends on Rajapaksa’s party—the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna—for political survival. 

The FSP leaders were members of the Sinhala chauvinist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which fully backed the communal war. As the JVP became widely discredited among workers and particularly youth, they broke away and formed the FSP in 2012. Despite its socialistic phrase mongering, the FSP backed the US engineered regime-change operation in 2015 that brought to power Sirisena, who was complicit in all the war crimes of the Rajapaksa government. 

The FSP turn to the UNHRC is significant. It underlines this party’s further rightward shift into the Colombo political establishment in response to the sharp upsurge of working class struggles in Sri Lanka and internationally.

Since April millions of workers and poor have been involved in huge protests and strikes in response to the social devastation produced by the global capitalist crisis. Like the ruling class, the trade unions and various pseudo-left groups were terrified by this popular uprising.

FSP collaborated closely with the trade union fronts to divert this mass opposition into one-day general strikes in April and May and to subordinate it to the demand for an interim capitalist regime that was also being pushed by the opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and JVP. The JVP and FSP unions were part of these trade union fronts.

By blocking any independent movement of the working class against the Rajapaksa regime, the FSP and the trade unions paved the way for Wickremesinghe to come to power. Now the FSP is lining up with the opposition parties to mount a phony campaign to defend democratic rights.

In August, the FSP took part in a seminar called by the Trade Unions and Mass Movement (TUMO). The FSP trade unions are part of TUMO. Among the invitees to the event were the representatives of the imperialist powers including the UK, Canada and Australia as well as of the opposition parties—the SJB, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Tamil National Alliance.

FSP Education Secretary Pubudu Jayagoda voiced the party’s full support to this reactionary line-up, declaring: “The FSP promises that we will give our maximum support to bring all forces against this repression into a common platform.”

On September 16, the FSP participated in an event organised by the IUSF to which the SJB and JVP were invited. The recently-formed Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya also attended. This outfit includes Sinhala chauvinist groups led by Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila who were ministers of the former Rajapaksa regime.

SJB chairman and MP, General Sarath Fonseka, addressed the meeting supposedly in a personal capacity. Fonseka was Army Commander during the final years of the war, overseeing the brutal offensives in the last months that killed tens of thousands of civilians. Jubilant about the gathering, he praised the IUSF and the FSP and called on professionals and businessmen to build the movement. “There are about 90 percent in the police are with us. In the military 98 percent are with us,” he declared.

Such are the rightwing forces being embraced by the FSP.

FSP leader Pubudu Jayagoda declared: “New leaders are in the making. All are uniting. This platform is the example. All these political parties, trade unions and mass organisations have united.” He added: “This mass force will not only secure the release of student leaders but a mass power will be built to send this anti-people, anti-social lot to the prison.”

The FSP claims to be building a “mass movement” to oust the repressive Wickremesinghe regime. In reality, it is promoting capitalist parties that have a similar record of repression and austerity. Both the SJB and JVP are committed to the IMF’s austerity agenda. A government of these parties would be just as ruthless as Wickremesinghe in attacking the democratic and social rights of working people.

This fake left group represents upper middle class sections of society. Its hostility to mobilise the working class on socialist policies flows from its commitment to the profit system.

[Sakuna Jayawardena and K. Ratnayake wrote this piece for World Socialist Website, Click here to read the original]

Atrocities against the Sikh Community

3 mins read

Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is a US-based organization which has been striving and struggling for an independent Sikh land for the last many years. The basic demand of this organization is the secession of Punjab from India and the formulation of a separate homeland for the Sikh community. It was founded in October 2007 and primarily was headed by lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. With its head-quarter in New York, the organization was banned in India in 2019. Now this movement for a separate Sikh land run by the SFJ has become a worldwide movement and millions of Sikhs are providing all possible support to it. Recently on 19 September, a referendum for the independent Sikh land Khalistan was organized by the SFJ in Brampton, Canada. According to the media reports, more than 100,000 Canadian Sikhs took part in that voting. Canada is home to over one million Sikhs. It is something very interesting that there are more than 30 million Sikhs all over the world and out of these 30 million about 28 million live in India. It means that India is home to 90% of the total Sikh population but the handful of extremist Hindu elements has made their life hell there in India. Circumstances have compelled them to migrate to the countries like Canada where everyone enjoys equal rights, particularly regarding religious liberty. 

With reference to the Sikh referendum in Canada, the BJP government had many times urged the government of Canada to put a strict check on the leaders of the Khalistan movement in Canada but the Canadian government always plainly refused to do so. The Canadian government spokesman said that their country would never stop Canadian Sikhs from expressing their views by holding the Khalistan Referendum as the legal parameters of the country’s laws consider it a democratic process. He furthermore said that it all was a peaceful process. According to the media reports, even after that flat refusal, the Indian government did not stop urging but rather pressurizing the Canadian government to act against the rising pro-Khalistani sentiment in Canada.

As far as the Khalistan movement is concerned, it is getting day by day stronger all over the world; since in Canada, there are more than one million Sikhs, the strength of this movement could be felt more there. The leaders of the Khalistan movement say that they are not against the Hindu community; they have no hatred against any religion but they hate the BJP extremists who don’t let them live in India. These extremists very bluntly and openly claim that India is only for the Hindus and no one from any other religious school of thought must strive and desire to stay in India; particularly the Sikhs and the Muslims. For the purpose of defaming these two communities, the Indian intelligence agencies are doing their utmost. Recently on 13th September, the walls of a prominent Hindu temple in Toronto Canada, known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir were defaced by scrawling pro-Khalistan and anti-Indian slogans. The BJP government without wasting any time and without any proof and investigation started condemning the Sikh community living in Canada for defacing the temple walls. 

Some social media users started sharing a video of the defaced shrine where Khalistani sentiments can be seen written on the walls but according to Livemint, the legitimacy of the video could not be confirmed. On the other hand, the Canadian government simply rejected the Indian point of view by saying that Canadian nationals have every freedom to express their views under the country’s laws relating to the right to freedom of expression and the right to free speech and assembly. Here an important point to be noted is that this so-called ‘hate-incident’ took place just five days ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting.

There is another side of the incident too. The Canadian police claimed that it had arrested an Indo-Canadian man for tearing a picture banner of the martyred Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the city of Caledon, Ontario. This incident occurred a few days before the defacing incident of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It means these two incidents were ‘designed’ in a very calculated manner. The perpetrators tried to target the peace and harmony of Canadian society where everyone is allowed to do anything living within the boundaries provided by the law of the country. Certainly, the BJP government is not happy with the Canadian government as it has granted legal freedom to the Sikh community of raising its voice for Sikh rights. It is a sheer misconception of the Indian government that by pressurizing the Canadian government, it would succeed in crushing the Sikh demand for a separate and independent Sikh homeland. The same cruel behaviour of the Indian government could be noticed in the Illegally Occupied valley of Kashmir where the local people are being treated as if they are slaves.