Bangladesh's parliament has approved legislation amending the country's constitution to allow the impeachment of Supreme Court judges.

The amendment passed unanimously late on Wednesday 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.

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But Anisul Hoque, the law minister who proposed the change, said the amendment allowed 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.

Hoque has denied the allegation and said the changes would not undermine the judiciary's independence.

Clashes between the government and judiciary are rare in Bangladesh, although recently Sheikh Hasina, prime minister, criticised 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.

Hasina's Awami League has three-fourths of the seats in the parliament. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass any bill.

Source: AP