Former Bangladesh Chief Justice sentenced to 11 years

Bangladesh has sentenced its Former Chief Justice, Surendra Kumar Sinha, for 11 years in absentia according to international media reports.

The former chief justice has been sentenced in absentia for alleged corruption in a case “politically motivated” by opposition groups and supporters according to Al Jazeera news. In legal terms, absentia is “in absence” in Latin – a trial in absentia “is a criminal proceeding in a court of law in which the person who is subject to it is not physically present at those proceedings”.

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Earlier in 2017, Surendra Kumar Sinha, 70, ruled that the Bangladesh Parliament cannot sack judges. At the time, this move was hailed by lawyers however, Sinha reportedly left Bangladesh in late 2017 alleging that he had been “forced to step aside”. As per the latest reports, the former chief justice is based in North America, having sought asylum. 

According to Al Jazeera news, a law professor at Dhaka University commented, “It was very obvious that the government was angry with him and … was determined to just kill his reputation”. Meanwhile, Sinha’s departure from Bangladesh is believed to be a blow to the country’s judicial system. 

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The former chief justice was reportedly declared guilty of embezzling approximately $471,000, alongside other officials, by a court in Dhaka. According to reports, ten others were indicted in the case from which eight have been convicted. 

Prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan has claimed that Judge Shaikh Nazmul Alam of the Special Judge’s Court in Dhaka delivered the verdict, ordering Surendra Kumar Sinha to seven years for corruption and four years for a breach of trust. According to Khan, the verdict shows that the law does not favor anyone. 

It is pertinent to note that Sinha was the first Hindu chief justice in Bangladesh.

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