Politics and Independence of the Judiciary in Bangladesh

IDE Research Bulletin


March 2019

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In Bangladesh, the judiciary has adjudicated important political issues, particularly cases of constitutional amendments. On the other hand, the judiciary has been utterly politicised against a backdrop of deep-seated antagonism and mistrust between the two major political parties—the Awami League (AL), led by Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Khaleda Zia. Although the related literature tends to focus on either the judicialisation of politics or the politicisation of the judiciary alone, we argue that politicisation and judicialisation have coexisted and the relative importance of these two factors can change depending on the type of issue dealt with by the judiciary.

Accordingly, we take up the latest constitutional amendment case as an example, in which the Supreme Court struck down a significant constitutional change in the procedure for the removal of judges. In so doing, we demonstrate that, while judicial appointments had been deeply politicised for decades, judges across the political spectrum were very keen to uphold judicial autonomy vis-à-vis the executive branch.

However, as the current regime has become increasingly authoritarian after “landslide victories” in general elections in 2014 and 2018, it seems more likely that the politicisation (and possibly the subjugation) of the judiciary has played a dominant role in recent years.