July 19, 2024, 3:34 am

Special Correspondent

2024-07-11 15:34:30 BdST

Doors of the court open for protesting students: Chief Justice

Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan said that the doors of the court are always open for students protesting against the quota system in government jobs.

The Chief Justice made these remarks to the Supreme Court lawyers while presiding over a full bench of the Appellate Division for the hearing and disposing of cases on Thursday morning.

The Chief Justice said, “The quota agitators can present their demands through lawyers. We will listen to them seriously,"

“Why are they talking about the executive department when any decision made by the department can be challenged in court?" he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Appellate Division issued a status quo for four weeks on the High Court verdict declaring the cancellation of the Freedom Fighter quota in the first and second classes of government jobs illegal. 

His statement came amid rising tensions over a recent High Court verdict that upheld the controversial freedom fighter quota in government jobs.

Background of the Quota Issue

The controversy began on June 5 when the High Court upheld the freedom fighter quota, sparking widespread student protests.

On July 10, the Supreme Court intervened, issuing a four-week status quo on the High Court's verdict, effectively cancelling the quota and directing recruitment tests to follow the 2018 government circular.

This circular had previously annulled the quota system for grades 9 to 13 in government jobs.

Government and Legal Responses

Attorney General AM Amin Uddin and government representatives have argued that the quota protests are now unwarranted following the Supreme Court’s interim order.

"There is no justification for the quota movement after the order of the court," Attorney General Uddin said, highlighting that the Supreme Court’s status quo reinstates the 2018 circular until the case’s final resolution on August 7.

Chief Justice’s Call to Action

Chief Justice Hasan called on students to return to their classes and to use legal channels to present their demands.

"Quota activists can present their demands through lawyers. We will listen to it seriously," he assured, stressing the judiciary's openness to addressing these issues.

Mixed Reactions from Legal Representatives

Senior lawyer Barrister Ruhul Quddus Kajol noted that the High Court's 16-point suggestion was aimed at creating a corruption-free country.

In contrast, the Chief Justice questioned the judiciary's role in advising Parliament but affirmed that the High Court could direct the government.

Barrister Shah Monjurul Haque, representing the two students, expressed a preference for suspending the decision to uphold the freedom fighter quota until the High Court’s judgment is fully reviewed.

Meanwhile, Mansurul Haque Chowdhury, representing the writ petitioners, defended the freedom fighter quota, arguing it honors the contributions of the nation’s freedom fighters and their descendants.

Govt Appeal for Public Order

State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammad Ali Arafat urged students to withdraw their protests, stressing that the Supreme Court’s order upholds the 2018 circular, which cancels the quota system.

He called for the protests to end to prevent further public disruption.

Historical Context

The quota system, abolished by the Ministry of Public Administration on October 4, 2018, included significant reservations for freedom fighters, women, districts, minorities, and disabled individuals, amounting to 56% of government job placements.

The Supreme Court’s interim order has reignited debates over this system, placing the final decision in the hands of the judiciary.

As the case approaches its final hearing on August 7, the nation watches closely. The judiciary's ultimate decision will significantly impact the future of the quota system in Bangladesh, shaping the landscape of public sector employment and national policy on affirmative action.

Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan's recent statements highlight the judiciary's pivotal role in resolving the quota issue.

His call for students to utilise legal avenues reflects a broader commitment to addressing national concerns within the framework of the rule of law.

The upcoming hearing promises to be a crucial moment for all stakeholders involved.

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