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Bangladesh CJ resigns amid criticism over verdict

Bangladesh CJ resigns amid criticism over verdict

Bangladesh's first Hindu Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, facing graft and money laundering allegations, has resigned a month after he went on leave overseas amid a row with the government over a crucial Supreme Court judgement, a senior official said today.

Reports said Mr. Sinha left Singapore on Friday for Canada to see his ailing daughter.

He had taken leave from his job last month.

He led an appellate division bench of the Supreme Court, which scrapped the 16th amendment to the Constitution, stripping the Parliament's power to impeach apex court judges on grounds of incapacity and misconduct.

Before leaving, he issued a statement, saying he was "not sick" and was "quite embarrassed" about how a specific political quarter, including some ministers and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself, had criticised him over one of the verdict.

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Immediate reasons behind Justice Sinha's resignation could not be ascertained. It said the allegations included some grave charges like money laundering, financial irregularities, corruption and moral lapses. According to the SC statement, all the five apex court judges held a meeting on the next day and subsequently met Sinha and sought his explanation about the allegations but "didn't get any acceptable explanation or reply". "Against that backdrop, I said that his reassuming the charge of chief justice on return was a far cry". Former law and justice minister Moudud Ahmed, now a member of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), called the resignation "unprecedented and shameful".

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir accused the government of forcing Sinha to go overseas to "establish its full control over the judiciary". "We've never heard before of a sitting chief justice resigning", he told AFP.

The minister on Saturday told this correspondent that the appointment of the chief justice is an absolute prerogative of the president under the constitution.

Sinha was appointed to the top court in January 2015, with his term scheduled to end on Jan 31, 2018.