DHAKA (THE DAILY STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - We welcome Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique's strong warning against corruption as he urged all to resist and socially boycott individuals engaged in corruption and black marketeering.
This, he said, will help establish justice in society. We cannot agree more. Corruption is the biggest barrier to not only justice but also inclusive development and people's safety and welfare.
Unchecked corruption, including state corruption, creates economic disparities, subverts law and order, and erodes the effectiveness of public institutions. The CJ's statement, when weighed against the reality, is also a painful reminder of how widespread corruption has become and how little is being done to prevent it.
The burden of that failure, unfortunately, falls as much on the executive branch as on the judiciary itself. For the government, preventing corruption requires having a functional administrative system with checks and balances regulating all actions and decisions in the public sector. But for a greater impact, the criminal justice system also needs to be proactive and preventive, rather than reactive and punitive, which will ensure that not only is justice served quickly and fairly, but potential criminals are also discouraged.
How is the judiciary faring in this respect? Not very well. We still remember the frustration expressed by a former chief justice in 2021 who, when asked if the judiciary follows up on the implementation of its directives in public interest cases, said that implementing government agencies and officials can be held in contempt but "we're tired of declaring contempt". He added: "Often our directives are not executed properly even after that." Clearly, the executive branch should, and is bound to, extend full cooperation to the judiciary. But the court also needs to be more assertive and proactive in this regard.
The noncooperation of public authorities is not the only problem preventing it from playing an effective role. The judiciary is hamstrung by various challenges including shortage of judges, intervention of the executive branch in judicial matters, a huge backlog of unresolved cases, and other systemic shortcomings. The result: Bangladesh is known more for criminals, including those charged with corruption, going unpunished than being held to account.
It is unfortunate that despite all the talk of "zero tolerance" against corruption by the higher-ups of the government, a practice of sustained and systemic action against the corrupt, including those politically connected, is yet to be instituted. We urge the authorities, of both the executive and judicial branches, to match their commitment with concrete action, collaboration, and reform, where necessary, to uproot corruption. Citizens, too, need to do their bit in this regard.
- The Daily Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media organisations.