Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir's recent move to become chairman of the proposed Farmers' Bank clearly goes against the country's constitution.
Let alone the chairmanship, the constitution in no way allows him to be involved in the management or conduct of the proposed bank.
Under pressure from government high-ups, the central bank on April 8 gave approval to nine new banks, including the Farmers' Bank. At the time of its approval, Alamgir, also chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts, was one of the 13 directors of the bank.
When the necessary documents were submitted to the central bank on October 16 for purposes of acquiring a licence, the name of Alamgir was proposed as its chairman. The proposal placed the central bank officials scrutinising the documents in a complicated situation as they could not find ways to handle it.
Article 147 (3) of the constitution strictly imposed a bar on the president, the prime minister, ministers and some other constitutional officials from holding any office, post or position of profit or emolument or taking any part whatsoever in the management or conduct of any company, association or body having profit or gain as its object.
Therefore, through this article, Alamgir, who took the oath of office as a minister on September 13, automatically stood disqualified from being chairman of the bank.
Naturally, his move to become chairman of the proposed bank has surprised many. Questions were raised as to how he took such a step, ignoring the constitutional provision. As per the oath taken by him as a minister, it is Alamgir's responsibility to preserve, protect and defend the constitution.
Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik analysing the constitutional provision says Alamgir has definitely taken steps towards violation of the constitution.
Agreeing with Malik, financial rules expert M Hafizuddin Khan, who is also a former comptroller and auditor general, says there is no scope for the home minister to remain involved in the running of the proposed bank. "There is no need to look for any other financial rules and regulations as the constitutional provision is crystal clear."
In the past, Awami League leader Abdul Jalil and BNP leader Mirza Abbas had to resign from the chairmanship of two banks, Mercantile Bank Ltd and Dhaka Bank Ltd, when they were appointed ministers during the previous Awami League- and BNP-led governments.
Now Alamgir would have to decide whether he wants to become the chairman of the proposed bank, a profit-making venture, by resigning from the cabinet or turn his back on the bank and continue being a minister.
Or, more ominously, will the central back allow him to become the chairman of the proposed bank ignoring the relevant constitutional provision and let him retain his ministerial berth?
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS
147. (1) The remuneration, privileges and other terms and conditions of service of a person holding or acting in any office to which this article applies shall be determined by or under Act of Parliament, but until they are so determined -
(a) they shall be those (if any) appertaining to the person holding or, as the case may be, acting in the office in question immediately before the commencement of this Constitution; or
(b) if the preceding sub clause is not applicable, they shall be determined by order made by the President.
(2) The remuneration, privileges and other terms and conditions of service of a person holding or acting in any office to which this article applies shall not be varied to the disadvantage of any such person during his term of office.
(3) No person appointed to or acting in any office to which this article applies shall hold any office, post or position of profit or emolument or take any part whatsoever in the management or conduct of any company, association or body having profit or gain as its object:
Provided that such person shall not for the purposes of this clause be deemed to hold any such office, post or position by reason only that he holds or is acting in the office first above mentioned.
(4) This article applies to the offices of – (a) President; (b) Prime Minister; (c) Speaker or Deputy Speaker; (d) Minister, Minister of State or Deputy Minister; (e) Judge of the Supreme Court; (f) Comptroller and Auditor General; (g) Election Commissioner; (h) Member of a public service commission.