Scrutinising EC formation law

Published : 29 Jan 2022 09:25 PM

Nomination and screening of persons for appointment in the service of the Republic is done under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC). It is a constitutional body and the chairman and members of this body are appointed by the President in accordance with the constitution. They take oath and perform their duties according to the constitution. They fulfill their responsibilities because they have the confidence of the people including the job seekers. In accordance with Article 138 (1) of the Constitution, the President appoints these members as the Chairman of the Public Service Commission.

Judges of the Appellate and High Court divisions of the Supreme Court are appointed in the light of the Constitution. They are appointed by the President in accordance with Article 95 (1) of the Constitution. They took oath according to the constitution. Sitting on the bench, they conduct the proceedings impartially. They fulfil their responsibilities by gaining the trust and confidence of the people.

The President also appointed the post of Auditor General and Controller in accordance with the Constitution. He was appointed to this post in accordance with Article 126 (1) of the Constitution. He has to fulfil his responsibilities by taking oath.

He is entitled to examine all the courts of the republic, all the accounts of the employees, documents, deeds, cash, government property including stamps. He who fulfills such an important duty of the state must be neutral and disinterested.

Since the above four posts i.e. PSC Chairman, Supreme Court Judge and Auditor General and Controller are constitutional posts of the state, what could be a more neutral and trustworthy person or institution in a republic?

With these four constitutional office bearers, why would it be unusual or controversial for the Republic to be given the responsibility of selecting an impartial and competent person? Why the question?

If the supreme law of the republic is the constitution, then why can't those who hold these constitutional positions be called neutral?

The draft law for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioner has been raised in the Parliament. Opposition political parties, including the BNP, are opposing the law, while individuals and organizations that run NGOs are also opposing the law.

According to the constitution, the President has the authority to form the Election Commission. The constitution calls for the formation of an election commission. The President established the Election Commission in accordance with Article 116 (1) of the Constitution.

For the last 50 years since independence, the President has been appointing Chief Election Commi­ssioners and Election Commissioners with constitutional powers. This appointment is being made without enacting any law as per the constitution. When the Election Commission was formed in 2012 for the first time, the President formed a search committee with the above four constitutional office bearers. Earlier, the President held a dialogue with the major political parties and the names of those raised in the dialogue were forwarded to the search committee.

Based on the recommendations of this search committee, the President appointed a Chief Election Commissioner and four Election Commissioners. In the second phase, the scope of the search committee was increased and the committee was made up of 6 people by connecting two prominent citizens. The President also conducts dialogues with the political parties, conducts search committees and appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and other commissioners on the recommendation of the search committee.

In the reality of Bangladesh, no one can be said to be more neutral than the head of state and the people holding constitutional office. I do not understand how reasonable it is to question the formation of the Election Commission by those neutral people.

The term of the current Election Commission is coming to an end on February 14. The government had said that the next election commission would be formed through a search committee. 

The law will not be made. In particular, Law Minister Anisul Haque has said at various times that it is not possible to pass a law in Parliament due to lack of time.

For this reason, the President will form the Election Commission as in the past two terms as per his constitutional power. For this, the President started a dialogue with the political parties registered with the Election Commission. However, several political parties, including the BNP, did not take part in the President's dialogue. However, the parties that took part in the dialogue also suggested legislation to form an election commission.

The idea is that in view of the dialogue between the political parties and their consultations, the government moved away from its position and decided to form an election commission by law. In this situation, the cabinet meeting on January 17 gave final approval to the draft of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner Appointment Act, 2022. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Suddenly the government moved away from its position and there are many questions, doubts and criticisms about the initiative to legislate quickly. 

Laws that have not been enacted for 50 years should be welcomed, not criticized. There is no reason why, "Kana Mama should be better than nai Mama". Or something is better than nothing. Let's get started. If there is a mistake, there is an opportunity to correct it in the future. The Constitution, the supreme law of the Republic, has been amended 16 times so far. 

It is true that no law is perfect. If there is an error in the application, it can be corrected. Corrections can be made as many times as needed.

The caretaker government system that was introduced by amending the constitution has also been cancelled by the Supreme Court. The caretaker government was arranged by amending the constitution in the need of the time and it may have been unconstitutional in the need of the time.

However, the National Parliament on Thursday passed the much- talked- about "Appointment of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners Bill, 2022" aiming to form the next Election Commission under a new law. Indeed, it is a progress for the nation. It will be seen in the future whether it is good or bad.

Shankar Maitra is a Journalist.