“Nobody is going to give you a floor unless you prove yourself to be…very efficient”: Justice Naima Haider

Justice Naima Haider of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh spoke about the judicial system in Bangladesh, diversity in courts and more

Transcript: Interview | Justice Naima Haider, Judge, Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Hello and welcome to Supreme Court Observer. I’m Sai Spandana, and today we’re pleased to have Justice Naima Haider from the Supreme Court of Bangladesh with us. We’re at the 36th LAWASIA conference here at Bengaluru. Thank you so much for taking the time out. 

Thank you so much for inviting me and interviewing me. Thank you very much. 

I know you have a packed schedule, so I’m going to quickly ask you and you can quickly tell us. 

Please. Sure. 

So firstly, Bangladesh Supreme Court has an appellate system within itself right? 


There is the High Court Division and appeals from that go to the- 

Appellate Division, yes.

So what, in your opinion, are some of the pros and cons of this system?

The pros and cons actually you know stems like, we have the commercial courts, so that is the original jurisdiction we have in the high courts. So some of the family matters, I would say, they go to the lower courts, so they don’t have access to the higher courts because they have to come via the family courts. Especially with regard to the custody of children, maintenance, dower, anything related to family matters. Sometimes it takes  relatively a longer period of time for them to initiate a family court proceeding and then to get the hearing done there and then ultimately coming to the High Court. So that takes a relatively longer period of time. Sometimes women feel that the High Court should be having the original jurisdiction. Sometimes. Even the visiting rights as well. So you know only for the habeus corpus the original jurisdiction has in the high courts that we do only when the visiting rights of either of the parents are subject to restrictions, then they can come to the high Courts directly. Other than that, they always have to go to the family courts. So there is this pro and the con as well. 

All right. And Ma’am, you’re also the chairperson of the-

Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee. Yes. 

And in your experience there, what are some of the issues with access to justice and diversity, especially in this age of technology?

Okay, so let me just tell you this. The Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee is obviously for the ones who are like, in need of, you know, they are not solvent or whatever, be it. And sometimes we see that even if somebody is in jail, has already crossed the sentence, the period is over, they have done with it, they can’t come out of the jail only because they don’t have so much of income generation, as we say. And they don’t even know, so they can’t even hire a lawyer. So if any of them, any of the relatives do come to us, we assist them by giving legal aid services to the lawyers. So that can be in case of anything, actually, anything. It can be civil, it can be criminal, anything to do with that. So we have a panel of lawyers in the Supreme Court, and we do give them those to conduct. So that’s how the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee does have a wider aspect in discharging the access to justice, as we say. 

All right. And when it comes to sort of the intersection between gender, diversity and other forms of diversity as well, what, in your experience, have been some of the challenges? Because you were in academia first.

Yes, I was in academia. I have a background from the academics as well. So gender bias we do face, but a lot of girls are now coming in the profession. But even then, I would say sometimes we do have the gender biasness, yes. In everywhere. It’s not only the judiciary, but everywhere. So all I want to tell all the women in the world, especially anyone, young girls, that they should come forward and make their voices heard. So unless and until you are making your voices heard, so unless you are proving yourself to be competent enough that you are competing with your male, I mean, the friend that you have, or with the class of male persons that you have, they are not going to recognise you. You have to make your own recognition by competing so that you know that your voices are being heard. And that’s how you- because it’s a world of competition anyway. So even I would say yes, but the girls tend to be shy. Girls don’t want to expose themselves, in spite of- but you will see, most of the girls do better in studies rather than the boys, so I’m not undermining the boys over here as well. So it’s like the girls, I would say that they have to come forward, that they have to compete with their men folk. So that’s how I say that the gender bias may be reduced to somewhat a greater extent.

Just to follow up on that, from an institutional perspective, what are some things- yesterday in the keynote address, Dr. Swaminathan was talking about the significance of diversity in policy levels?

Yes, exactly. I was with her as well. Yeah, I did take note of that. Yes. She was saying that- even in our country as well, when it comes to policy matters, it’s always unfortunately, it’s always the mainstream that comes into effect. Rather, as I said, unless any women speaks up for themselves, unless any woman makes their voices heard, so nobody would give a chance. Nobody is going to give you a floor unless you prove yourself to be somewhat very efficient. That’s what she was saying yesterday. I did note that from the keynote speaker. We also have the same thing. So in that case, I think women should come forward and make part themselves of the policy decisions, as we say, in any matters. It doesn’t have to,- she was from WHO, W-H-O, World Health Organisation. So that’s how we do, as I always say. 

Yes, right. And lastly, so tomorrow, actually, India is going to celebrate our Constitution Day.

Yes, congratulations. Yes, congratulations. 

And if you could just tell our audience and our viewers a small message.

Yes, congratulations to everyone who are celebrating, who are not, India is celebrating, so congratulations. And we, Bangladesh and India have a very good friendship, as we all know this, in respect of everything, not just judiciary. In respect of trade, commerce, and friendship. And we find ourselves to be good neighbours. So congratulations and best wishes for all of you.

And I wish the 36th LAWASIA Conference a great success. Thank you for interviewing me. Thank you very much.