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February 29 2004 

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Free anti-graft body bill passed
The Jatiya Sangsad has passed the much-talked-about Anti-corruption Commission Bill, 2004. Under the framework of the law, the proposed commission will have three commissioners, who would be picked for a four-year term by the president from a six-member panel chosen by the search committee. The five-member search committee will have a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court as its chairman and a judge of the High Court Division, the chairman of the Public Service Commission, the comptroller and auditor general and the last retired cabinet secretary as its members. The commission, which will enjoy financial autonomy like the Supreme Court and the Jatiya Sangsad, will assign its officials to probe allegations of corruption. Its commissioners will also have the authority to investigate any alleged corruption. Cases under the law would be tackled in special judge's courts. The investigation officers of the commission will enjoy the authority of an officer-in-charge of a police station while investigating cases. The bill said people with 20 years of experience in law, education, administration, judiciary or armed forces would be eligible for the posts of commissioner. -Law Desk.

JSC members appointed
The government has appointed Chairman and other members of the Judicial Service Commission, the body to recruit judges for lower courts. Justice Ruhul Amin, Judge of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has been appointed as the Chairman to the JSC. Public Service Commission (PSC) Member Latifur Rahman has also been made a member of the commission. The other members of the JSC are the law, establishment and finance secretaries, registrar of the Supreme Court and Dhaka district and session's judge. -Prothom Alo, 26 February.

Special tribunal for land cases
The government will set up a special tribunal to dispose of land dispute cases for speedy disposal of the pending cases. The law ministry will place a bill giving legal framework of the tribunal in the current session of parliament. The bill also seeks to simply land registration system, maintain land-related records and bring transparency to the process. A cabinet committee on land dispute cases has already finalised its report on the bill and related issues which will be placed before the cabinet soon prior to the introduction of the bill in the House. Land Minister M Shamsul Islam told that the government is computerising the entire land management system and preparing a structured and prescribed form for land registration, in which all necessary information like 25-year history of a piece of land, name or names of owners and demarcation number will be mentioned clearly. He hoped that it will help check fake and forged documentation and sales of a particular piece of land to more than one person. -Daily Star, 15 February.

NGO bill called back for changes
The government has called back for modifications the proposed "The Foreign Donations [Voluntary Activities Regulation (Amendment)] Ordinance, 2004". The bill was called back 16 days after its submission to the Parliament Secretariat on January 27 to place before parliament for approval. A letter from the Prime Minister's Office signed by LGRD and Co-operatives Minister said the bill required some changes before sending for parliament's nod. The government is likely to hold dialogue with NGO stakeholders before modification of the law. The Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh (FNB) and the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB) had alleged the government's move was aimed at establishing full control on the NGO sector and labelled it as a blueprint to destroy the NGO community. NGOs of the country believe that there already are adequate regulations for NGOs and the move will convert private voluntary organisations into departments attached to the government. -Jugantor, 15 February.

Corruption alleged against judges
Over 100 lawyers of Dhaka Bar Association have urged the Chief Justice (CJ) to replace three judges and five magistrates including the Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge and chief metropolitan magistrate. In a memorandum to Chief Justice Syed JR Mudassir Husain the lawyers accused them of bribery, corruption and irregularities and also of misconduct. The lawyers said the allegations against these judges and magistrates in question are well known to all. Besides, the lawyers alleged, one of them took bribe to grant bail to the prime accused but refused the same to the co-accused in a case. Such actions of the judges and magistrates are unacceptable, as their actions are causing erosion of public confidence in the judiciary. The lawyers observed and urged the chief justice to find better replacements for them. -Law Desk.

Law to muffle noise in the offing
The Ministry of Forest and Environment has drafted an amendment to the Noise Pollution Control Act 2004 that will bar or restrict the use of hydraulic horns, mikes, loud speakers, brick grinding machines, generators and other loud machinery. The use of microphones and sirens for religious purposes like calls for prayers and predawn meals during Ramadan, state functions and during emergencies will be outside the purview of the law. This was revealed by environment minister Shajahan Siraj. The law will be enacted gradually over a period of three months to curb the menace. A countrywide awareness campaign will be launched about the harmful effects of noise pollution. Total ban on the horns will come into effect two months after the draft is vetted. Violators will be facing a six-month jail term or a fine of Tk 10,000 or both. The draft law entitles city mayor's offices, chairmen of pourashava (municipality) and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha in Dhaka to earmark areas as residential, commercial, mixed, industrial and silent zone in the capital and all over the country, and post signs concerning the maximum allowable noise level. The law will bar the use of loud speakers for events like picnics and election campaigns, and also restrict use of loud machines for construction. -Daily Star, 16 February.

Speedy trial act to continue
The Law and Order Infringing Offences (Speedy Trial) Act 2002 will continue for two more years. The cabinet has approved a bill in this regard. The bill will be tabled in the Jatiya Sangsad in its current session. Justifying the continuation of the act, the cabinet observed that it has been proved to be a successful legislation to curb law and order infringing activities. According to the meeting, 4,154 cases have been filed against 19,331 persons under the Act since its enforcement. Of the cases filed, charge sheets have been filed in 3,614, while in 397 cases police submitted final reports, as the investigators found no proof of the truth of the allegations in those cases. Of the charge-sheeted cases, 3,034 have been disposed of and 580 are under trial. 142 cases are now under investigation. The trials found 3,804 accused persons guilty in 1,607 cases, and the courts have convicted them. -New Age, 24 February.



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