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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's parliament now has the authority to impeach Supreme Court judges after lawmakers late Wednesday voted to approve a much-debated amendment to the constitution.
The amendment passed unanimously in a voice vote of 327-0, with support coming from the ruling Awami League.
Critics of the amendment, including senior jurists, said it was a thinly veiled way for the ruling party to keep the judiciary under control. But Law Minister Anisul Hoque, who proposed the change, said the amendment allows parliament to impeach judges on grounds of "misbehavior or incapacity."
Previously a council of senior judges led by the chief justice was assigned to deal with any case of misconduct by judges.
Bangladesh's judiciary, often riddled with corruption, enjoys relative freedom but the appointment of senior judges is often influenced by authorities. Major opposition parties opposed the government's move to amend the constitution, saying authorities will systematically influence the judiciary, especially when it comes to politically sensitive cases.
The law minister has denied the allegation and said with the changes will not undermine the judiciary's independence.
Clashes between the government and judiciary are rare in Bangladesh, although recently Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina criticized two judges for a ruling that asked authorities to arrest members of an elite law enforcement agency to face murder charges in the death of seven people in a single incident.
Sheikh Hasina's Awami League has three-fourths of the seats in the parliament. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass any bill.
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