The King Can Do No Wrong!
Rex non potest peccare’ is an ancient Latin legal maxim. It originated in English common law and is based on the idea that the king cannot commit a legal wrong. The period when the maxim was adopted churches and rulers were deemed to be very powerful having divine power and blessings. Even in the 18th century Europe the authority of these two institutions could not be challenged by a commoner. So whatever the church and the king did, it was thought to be beyond any controversy. Both enjoyed inviolable impunity for their actions.
In the recent times, the actions of some western powers, their lawmakers, some international agencies vis-a-visa law suits against Nobel Laureate Dr. Mohammad Yunus seem to have resurrected the doctrine. In 1992 Dr. Yunus and his Grameen Bank jointly was awarded the Noble Prize for peace. This was a time when Begum Zia was in power but neither her party nor any party seniors deemed it necessary to felicitate Bangladesh’s first Noble Laureate. One of the first groups of people who went to felicitate the new hero was a team led by Awami League’s the then General Secretary Abdul Jalil.
Over the years the relationship with Dr. Yunus and the ruling party seems to have nosedived over quite a few non-issues which unfortunately have been blown out of proportion by some civil society members and local media. Dr. Yunus started his professional career in the independent Bangladesh during Bangabandhu’s rule as an economist in the First Planning Commission. Later he left his first job to begin his teaching profession in a leading public university.
From a tiny experimental project of poverty alleviation adjacent to his workplace, Dr. Yunus built up his Grameen Empire. Over the years he could build up enviable relationship with many international institutions, some western powers and individuals including US presidents, lawmakers and other Noble Laureates. Though the Noble Peace Prize lost its shine over the years due to controversial people being awarded this prize, people in general took Dr. Yunus receiving the prize in good earnest and many felt proud of it. To some it may seem harsh but the fact is that in the recent years Dr. Yunus has been in the news always for wrong reasons.
Dr. Yunus first hit the international headline when a Norwegian TV documentary accused him of wrongly transferring a substantial amount of money from one fund to another. Eventually he was cleared from the allegation. Unfortunately Dr. Yunus’s relationship with his employees did not go very well. According to the media reports the Grameen Bank clients were highly dissatisfied with the nature of service they received from the Bank and the loan recovery process.
In the recent times, a number of Grameen Telecom and its affiliate employees sued the Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank for violating Labour Law. This is a matter between the Grameen Bank employees and Dr. Yunus and the government has nothing to do with it. The matter is being heard in the country’s trial courts.
This is not the first time a Nobel Laureate is being tried before a court. Recently Dhaka born eminent Indian economist and a Noble Laureate Professor Amartya Sen was sued by Vishwa Bharati University in West Bengal alleging that he has forcibly occupied a tiny patch of land. Professor Sen had to fight the case in the lower court without any result. Finally the Calcutta High Court stayed the eviction notice.
Ironically there was no statement even from any civil society members in Kolkata or anywhere else complaining about ‘harassing’ Professor Sen. However, in the case of Dr. Yunus there were floods of statements from US and European Law Makers, paid advertisements in leading US dailies costing millions of dollars and intimidating letters sent to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stop according to them ‘harassing Dr. Yunus.’ Surprisingly they fail to understand that Bangladesh’s Prime Minister has nothing to do with the legal suit against Dr. Yunus.
According to Bangladesh’s Constitution, the judiciary is an independent body and neither the Prime Minister nor the President has any power to override the decision of the judiciary. The President can only pardon a convicted person. It must also be remembered that in Bangladesh one deposed President had served prison terms and currently one former Prime Minister is serving her prison terms. In US currently former President Donald Trump is being tried in US courts. No US lawmaker has been seen to have raised a voice against Trump’s trial.
Recently 12 US Senators have again sent a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minster to stop the trial of Dr. Yunus. This is a gross infringement in the sovereignty of a country and interfering in the independent judiciary system of Bangladesh. Dr. Mohammad Yunus is an honourable man in his own rights. Such uncalled for letters or appeals do not add any honour or glory to him.
The US is very vocal on preservation of labour rights around the world. Let us see whether the US lawmakers and others write to Dr. Yunus to honour his own employee’s labour rights.
No person is above the law, not even the king, president or the prime minster or even Dr. Yunus.
The writer is an analyst and commentator.
Source: The Daily Sun.