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POST TIME: 3 April, 2016 00:00 00 AM
Remembering Justice Syed Mahbub Murshed
Justice Murshed gained fame for his wisdom and intelligence, as well as the deep respect of the public, as he was fearless
Barrister Tamijuddin

Remembering Justice Syed Mahbub Murshed

Bengalis in the last century was predominantly ruled by the British and the Pakistanis.  However, the Bengali speaking people were a society of its own and perhaps a state within a state. In such a situation very few were knowledgeable and had a rare distinction to reach the highest pedestal. Syed Mahbub Murshed was one such rare gem and hence, Justice Murshed has become living history.
Murshed was born in a distinguished family of Muslim Bengal, yet throughout his life remained the champion of the body politic. Years to the completion of the British empire in the sub-continent, while the heat of the anti-British movement rose high in the classical thermometer, he completed his barrister at law from Lincoln's Inn in England in 1938, which was a rare distinction for a Bengali Muslim then. A brilliant student Justice Murshed prior to that did his BA (Hons), MA in Political Economy and BL, the law degree,  from the Calcutta University with outstanding results. His extracurricular activities during his student days were,while in Presidency College was that he was the editor of their student magazine and while in Calcutta University, Murshed was the debating champion. All this contributed to his high intellectual performance and striking scholarly character. As a result, much has been said and especially written about him and no one as yet received such a wide variety of acclaim.
The writers who wrote about Justice Murshed include scholars, columnists, lawyers, judges, political thinkers, poets, journalists and teachers. The late Professor Kabir Chowdhury paid rich tributes to Justice Murshed lauding his qualities such as grace, culture, the oratorical skills, kindness and humility.
Justice Murshed was firmly committed to the ideals of democracy, upholding the cause of justice even against extreme odds. He kept afloat the flag of liberty in defiance to all kinds of pressures even from the highest quarters."
Similarly, late Justice Abu Sayed Chowhury wrote about him stating that "Justice Murshed in his courageous judgments reached correct independent decisions indicating the boldness of his mind. He gained fame for his wisdom and intelligence, as well as the deep respect of the public, as he was fearless. It was Justice Murshed, the man, who had for many years with courage dauntlessly upheld the rule of law and administered justice without fear or favor, despite severe pressure.
His affection for men in his profession was great. After his premature resignation and when as former chief justice he wrote: 'I salute you - you who are my erstwhile comrades the members of the bar.'    
In spite of his professional preoccupation, Syed Mahbub Murshed found time to write profusely and participate in social and humanitarian activities. His article entitled "Quo adis Quaid-e-Azam" in which he criticised Mr Jinnah in 1942 appeared in the Statesman of Calcutta and the Telegraph in London created quite a stir. During the Bengal famine in 1943 and later during the communal riots of 1946, Murshed worked actively with the Anjuman Mafidul Islam. Again during the communal violence in 1947 that shook the subcontinent, he was one of those who were primarily responsible for setting into motion the process, which had culminated in the Nehru-Liaquat pact. He was drawn into the vortex of the language movement in the early fifties. Because of his profound feeling towards humanity he was the President of the East Pakistan Red Cross Society.   Murshed was also the President of the East Pakistan Scouts Association where from an early age, the Bengali youth were trained in Bengali nationalism.
In the later part of 1954, he was elevated to the bench of the Dhaka High Court. As a Judge Syed Mahbub Murshed remained committed to his lifelong ideals of liberty, justice and excellence. His judicial pronouncements, delivered while sitting in the bench of the Dhaka High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, briefly as an ad-hoc judge plus then as Chief Justice reflected his lofty ideals of establishing human rights and the rule of law. Some of his judgments created constitutional history and won for him many an international acclaim.
In addition to his judicial work, he also championed Bengali cultural freedom, particularly during the oppressive Ayub regime.
In 1961, he organised the Tagore Centennial celebrations in Dhaka and elsewhere in now, what is Bangladesh and these events were in defiance of  the opposition to the then Pakistani military rulers. Murshed was a Sufi and a liberal Muslin and preached tolerance which was against any form of communalism. Furthermore, Justice Murshed's massive role in the mass upsurge of 1969 and his refusal to collaborate with the Pakistani military regime in 1971, during our liberation struggle has been recorded by the historians.
Another significant contribution by Chief Justice Murshed was that he gave the final varnish to the drafting of the six points that was the demand of the then Bengali intelligentsia of all walks of life for provisional autonomy, which Sheikh Mujib fought and was jailed for. It was Justice Murshed as a practicing lawyer in early 1954, who was among those who drafted the 21 point manifesto of the Jukta-Front government and this can be and was summarised by him into the famous six points by him. Again, Mazharul Haq Baki, the Chhatra League President in later 1966, records that no one except Chief Justice Murshed dared to accept in being the chief guest at their annual conference, where Murshed like Sheikh Mujib made the clarion call for provincial autonomy for East Pakistan.
During the round-table-conference in 1969 and when Ayub was virtually surrendering to the opposition and additionally, with the dissolution of the one unit in West Pakistan, Justice Murshed demanded one man one vote. Prior to this new demand, there was parity of 150 seats each for East and West Pakistan in the then Pakistan National Assembly. However, with the breaking of the one unit in West Pakistan, it was when Justice Murshed's proposal was accepted, the one man one vote concept resulted in 169 seats for East Pakistan out of 300. In other words, it was Justice Murshed who paved the way as to whoever would be the majority in East Pakistan, they would obviously form the National government.
Justice Murshed played a crucial role in founding Bengali nationalism. In conclusion to quote Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelly, Murshed was the man in his life span who was endeavoring in "building bridges between the past, present and future." He will always remain the keeper of our national conscience.

The writer is researcher on legal affairs