Vol. 5 Num 574 Fri. January 06, 2006  
Front Page

Voter listing continues ignoring HC directives
EC Secretariat says order's copy yet to reach; jurists warn of contempt possibility

Amid clamour and confusion reigning the voter roll-making scenario, the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat yesterday continued the work ignoring Wednesday's High Court directives to revise the existing roll.

Already mired deep in controversy, the ongoing voter listing process may face further difficulties with the EC Secretariat continuing the task despite the directives, many fear.

The EC Secretariat did not explain the court's guidelines to the field-level personnel recruited controversially. It rather directed them to continue the work.

Besides, the chief election commissioner (CEC) did not consult the other two election commissioners about the developments following the HC directives.

"We have not yet received the certified copy of the court orders. So, we preferred to carry on the task of collecting information about prospective voters," EC Joint Secretary Mohammad Zakoria told journalists at his office yesterday.

Replying to a query on the EC Secretariat's decision to keep doing the work, former judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court Ghulam Rabbani said, "The Election Commission must take initial steps to stop the process of collecting information for a fresh voter list until it receives the certified copy of the court's order."

Echoing the view, Kazi Ebadul Haque, another former judge of the Appellate Division, said, "The commission is obliged to obey the High Court's orders. Contempt proceedings may be brought if the orders are not complied with."

CEC MA Aziz yesterday declined to talk to the journalists about the issue while election commissioners AK Mohammad Ali and M Munsef Ali said the EC must abide by the court directives.

About the implications of the directives, Justice Rabbani, said, "Continuing the process [collecting information about the prospective voters] is illegal after the High Court had asked the commission to revise the existing roll," he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Justice Haque said as far as he knows from the newspapers, it is clear that the court has asked the EC to revise the existing one.

"The difference is clear between preparing a voter list afresh and revising the existing one," Haque told The Daily Star.

As the work of preparing a fresh list continued, the two election commissioners, who have all along been opposing the idea of having a fresh voter list and favouring instead a revised list, yesterday expressed fears for the fate of the ongoing task undertaken unilaterally by the CEC.

"One can understand with ease what might happen to the voter list not prepared in accordance with the High Court's order," Election Commissioner AK Mohammad Ali told journalists at his office, referring to continuing of the task for preparing the fresh voter list as decided by the CEC unilaterally.

Election Commissioner M Munsef Ali said going by the newspaper reports, he understands that the High Court's judgement has established their opinions.

"We never spoke for preparing a fresh voter list as the existing electoral rules do not allow to do so," the election commissioner added.

The CEC has neither initiated steps to hold an EC meeting nor consulted with the two election commissioners in the wake of the changed situation. The EC Secretariat yesterday directed the field-level election officials to continue collecting information on the would-be voters.

The CEC and the EC Secretary yesterday declined to comment on the issue. Zakoria told journalists that they are continuing the task, as they have yet to have in hand any certified copy of the HC directives.

The EC Secretariat is not likely to get the copy before Sunday due to the weekend on Friday and Saturday. So it will continue the task and there is no possibility for the EC to issue any directive before Sunday.

Meanwhile, the enumerators, who began their work on January 1, are faced with new difficulties as the intending voters are questioning the fate of the ongoing listing process following the HC directives.

"Some even refused to fill up the voter registration forms, saying their names are already on the existing list," enumerator Hossain Ahmed, who is collecting information in the city's Mohammadpur area, told The Daily Star yesterday.

"When the court has asked to revise the current list why are you (enumerators) preparing a fresh one," he quoted a voter as asking.

"We are struggling to reply to their queries as the commission did not send us any further directives," said Sirajul Islam, an enumerator.

He said the EC had given us the training to prepare a fresh roll, not to revise the existing one. "We were told today that in a couple of days they will provide us with the existing list to carry out the task."

A district election officer in Sylhet division yesterday said enumerators, supervisors and assistant registration officers have been querying about the fate of their assignments following the HC directives.

According to the electoral rules, the forms to be used to revise a voter list should be different from those for preparing a fresh list, he observed.

"In this situation, alongside the voters, we too are confused and worried about our job," the election officer told The Daily Star, wishing anonymity.

Munsef Ali however said there is nothing to get confused about.

He said, "The existing voter list will have to be corrected by revision. Then a draft of it will be published in accordance with the procedure."

Mohammad Ali said he has asked the law officers of the EC Secretariat to collect immediately the certified copy. "On receiving the copy, we will sit to decide the next course of actions."

"The commission's meetings are usually convened by the CEC. If he does not call a meeting immediately on his own, we will ask him," the election commissioner said.

Replying to a query about the manpower recruited ignoring the objection of the two election commissioners, Mohammad Ali said they [commissioners] would do everything necessary to prepare a fair electoral roll.

Khondker Mahbubuddin Ahmed, the counsel for CEC, yesterday rushed to the HC bench that delivered the directives in response to two writ petitions challenging the preparation of the fresh voter list and sought the court's intervention in ridding people of the 'confusion' created by the newspapers.

He submitted before the court that the newspapers reported differently and pleaded for the court's directives ordering the print media to report 'correctly'. Confusion swept the country due to varying reports in the newspapers, he argued.

He also requested the court to finalise immediately the certified copy of the directives.

The court did not say anything about issuing directives for the newspapers, but assured the counsel that it will try to finalise the certified copy as soon as possible.

The HC on Wednesday asked the EC to prepare a voter list based on the existing one amid an intense debate for and against preparing a fresh electoral roll for the next parliamentary elections.

Explaining the HC's observations that asked incorporating the names of people aged 18 or above in the new electoral roll and excluding the names of dead and insane voters from the existing list, experts on law and electoral affairs said it means revising the existing voter list.