The longest-serving Attorney General

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(February 17, 1949 – September 27, 2020)

Gautam Barua

The ongoing Corona virus pandemic is truly doing holocaust with the lives of the millions across the globe. People from all walks of life are being infected in an exponential ration. Bangladesh, too, is facing its scathing blow. We have already lost many a great personage. Our legal community is no exception to this. After the untimely demise of Advocate Sahara Khatun, Attorney General of Bangladesh Mahbubey Alam, too, succumbed to the deadly blow of Corona virus on September 27, 2020. Mahbubey Alam – the longest-serving chief legal officer of the state – a veteran leader and a true guardian of the legal community, breathed his last in the intensive care unit at the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka at 7:25 pm. He was 72. Earlier, Alam was put into intensive care at the hospital after his vital signs worsened during treatment on Sep 18. He was hospitalised with a high temperature on Sept 4 and later tested positive for COVID-19. He has remained in hospital care ever since. The longest-serving Attorney General of the country has left behind his wife, two children and a host of admirers to mourn his death.

As a legal professional, Advocate Mahbubey Alam had an illustrious career. Born February 17th in 1942 in Munshiganj, he obtained his B.A. (Hons) in Political Science in 1968
from University of Dhaka and M.A. in Public Administration from the same University in 1969. Mahbubey Alam took his LL.B. degree from Dhaka City Law College in 1972. Thereafter, he earned Diploma Degree on Constitutional Law and Parliamentary Procedure from the Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies, New Delhi, India.

Mahububey Alam was enrolled as an Advocate of the District Court, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and the Appellate Division of the same Court in 1973, 1975 and 1980 respectively. He was enrolled as Senior Advocate of the Appellate Division in 1998. He began practising law in 1975.

In his long legal career, Mahbubey Alam was elected the Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association for the period of 1993-1994. He was also the member of Bangladesh Bar Council for 2004-2007. Besides he was elected twice as the President of Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association for the period of April, 2005 to March, 2006 and 2006-2007. He worked as Additional Attorney General for Bangladesh from 15th November, 1998 to 4th October, 2001. Alam was appointed as Attorney General for Bangladesh on January 13, 2009 and he continued his service till his demise.

The great jurist toured India, Sri Lanka, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Egypt, Italy, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Tanzania and many other countries to attend seminars and symposiums. Mahbubey Alam placed arguments before the Appellate and High Court Divisions on many important cases including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination case, and the cases regarding the Constitution’s Fifth, Seventh, 13th and 16th amendments. Besides, Mahbubey Alam had placed arguments before the apex Court to ensure punishment of war criminals Matiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, Muhhammad Kamaruzzaman, Abdul Quader Mollah, Mir Quashem Ali, Salah Uddin Quader Chowdhury, Delwar Hossain Sayedee and ATM Azharul Islam for their crimes against humanity and war crimes during the Liberation War of the country in 1971.
A deep pall of gloom has envisaged the legal community as well as the whole nation following the untimely death of this eminent jurist and Attorney General of the republic. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed profound shock and condolence at the demise of the Attorney General. In his condolence message, Abdul Hamid said that Mahbubey Alam had shown extraordinary skills in handling different cases, including the ones filed over Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s murder. “His death is an irreparable loss to the country,” the President said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her condolence message said that the nation would always remember Mahbubey Alam with gratitude for his contributions to the country’s legal arena. She said, “As an eminent jurist, he played his role with great skills in many legal matters of national importance. He also devoted himself to his profession righteously, which will always remain as a noteworthy example for all.” Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, of the House among others, expressed grief at the Attorney General’s death.

On September 28, 2020, the top law officer of the State was laid to rest in the capital’s Martyred Intellectuals’ Graveyard. Earlier, on the day, his body was kept on the Supreme Court Bar Association premises where Supreme Court Judges, former Judges, lawyers, law officers, government high officials, political leaders, educationists, professionals and his family members paid their last respect. With love, respect and grief, people from all walks of life bade farewell to eminent jurist and Attorney General of Bangladesh Mahbubey Alam. His namaz-e-janaza was also held there. Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Law Minister Anisul Huq, Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, Judges of the Appellate and High Court Divisions of the Supreme Court, former Appellate Division Judges Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Md Nizamul Huq, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, SCBA President AM Amin Uddin, Inspector General of Police Benazir Ahmed, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam joined the janaza prayers and paid tribute to Mahbubey Alam by placing wreaths.

Peshajibi Samannay Parishad President AFM Mesbahuddin and its organising secretary Advocate Motaher Hossain Sazu, former Additional Attorney Generals Murad Reza and Momtaz Uddin Fakir and Additional Attorney Generals SM Munir, former SCBA presidents and secretaries, deputy attorney generals and assistant attorney generals and SCBA Secretary Ruhul Quddus Kazal, leaders of Ainjibi Parishad, Mahbubey Alam and Associates, prosecutors of International Crimes Tribunal among others, joined there. Besides, wreaths were placed on behalf of President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in honour of Senior Advocate Mahbubey Alam. The Chief Justice announced a general holiday for both the Appellate and High Court Divisions of the Supreme Court to pay tribute to the veteran jurist.

Mahbubey Alam had been always a person of meek nature and a jurist of rare erudition. Whether or not someone is a junior lawyer or senior jurist, Mahbubey Alam used to greet and meet all alike with his usual polite smile. He worked throughout his life to establish the rule of law. In an exclusive interview with Bangladesh Legal Times in 2016 he said, “My advice to the lawyers is to be patient, to be sincere, to be devoted and to be dedicated to the cause of Rule of Law and to the cause of the sovereignty of the Constitution.” As a jurist such was his conviction. Mahbubey Alam believed in independence of the Judiciary. His view was – “The independence of the Judiciary is a relative thing. You see, the Executive branch of the Government and the Judiciary in the USA, more than 200 years have passed, still there may be some dispute or problem in deciding the matter. In our country, I think, in near future, this will take a shape and the main thing now is the 16th Amendment of the Constitution.
I hope, if the original provision of the Constitution is restored as it was in 1972, then it will take a clear-cut shape and the constitutional duties and the
responsibilities of the Judiciary and the Executive will be very much defined.”

When asked about his experience upon the significant cases like Bangabandhu Murder Case, the Jail Killing Case, the cases of the war criminals and many other landmark constitutional cases such as 6th Amendment Case, 7th Amendment Case or 13 Amendment Case, the longest serving late AG said, “I was part of these cases as lawyer and I feel very satisfied that I became a part of this history by attending these cases.’ About 16th Amendment Case his opinion was – “I feel very sad when I see the judgement of the 16th Amendment passed by the High Court Division. I, myself, vehemently made argument in support of the Amendment and repeatedly I said that by this Amendment we are going back to the original Constitution and regarding other things namely, the job security of the Judges and others and their other freedom, it will be decided by a law and that let the law be framed.”

About Bangabandhu Murder Case he regretted – “Regarding Bangabandhu Murder Case, one thing has been established, there is the conspiracy which was the main fact in this case. In the Jail Killing Case, only few persons have been convicted due to lapse of time. Definitely, only three persons were not involved and more than those were involved in this case. But because of this lapse of time and since other alamats (evidences) were destroyed.”

Truly, with the demise of Mahbubey Alam, Bangladesh’s legal community has not lost a jurist of eminence, but a true guardian. I can still remember that lazy-cozy afternoon of December in 2016, I was about to interview him. I was greeted cordially by him amid a room stuffed with files and packed with lawyers. I found in a man who gave due and patient attention to all. Despite his being extremely occupied, he gave a patient hearing to all my queries. There is no denying the fact that his untimely departure has created such an unsurmountable vacuity that would hardly be replenished in years to come.

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