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Two finance ordinances ratified amid walkout

Amid walkout of BNP-led alliance lawmakers, the House yesterday ratified two finance ordinances legalising imposition and realisation of taxes during the immediate past caretaker government rule.

The opposition lawmakers, who demanded disapproval of 16 ordinances, staged the walkout in protest against hurriedly beginning the process of placing and passage of 10 bills, including the two finance bills, to ratify 17 ordinances. They alleged that they were not allowed to take part in the process as per the rules of procedure of the Jatiya Sangsad.

In exercise of his authority, Speaker Abdul Hamid suspended the provision of the rules of procedure that say copies of the bills will be sent to the lawmakers three days before placing or proposing to consider the bills for passage.

The lawmakers, if they desire, can take part in the process of placing and passage of the bills by giving notices in the three days if they have any objections to those.

As the opposition lawmakers were not provided the time, they objected to beginning the process of placing and passage of the bills and walked out, accusing the treasury bench of violating the rules of procedure to transact the lawmaking activities.

The treasury and opposition bench lawmakers however engaged in a debate over effectiveness of the timeframe provision, prompting the Speaker to announce suspension of the provision.

The opposition lawmakers return to the House on completion of passage of the ten bills.

After the walkout in the evening, the finance bills to ratify the finance ordinances were passed giving retrospective effect from July 1, 2007 and July 1, 2008 respectively.

In absence of the opposition lawmakers eight other bills including one to ratify three ordinances amending the Representation of the People Order (RPO) were also placed and passed hurriedly.

Earlier, during disposal of the resolutions for disapproval of the ordinances, Finance Minister AMA Muhith defended ratification of the ordinances and said it is required to prevent unconstitutional activities in future.

"Money has been collected and spent through promulgation of the ordinances. Continuation of the government will be hampered if the finance bills were not passed," the finance minister argued in defence of ratification of the two finance ordinances.

The House also ratified four income tax ordinances promulgated in 2007 and 2008 either to increase or decrease the tax structure by passing a single bill with retrospective effect from July 1, 2007.

In defence of resolutions for disapproval of the ordinances, the BNP-led opposition lawmakers said the immediate past caretaker government violated article 83 of the constitution by imposing taxes without approval or authority of parliament. The activities of violation of the constitution should not be legalised, they argued.

But their resolutions were rejected in a voice vote and the ordinances were ratified with the passage of the bills in support of the ruling alliance lawmakers.

The parliament ratified the Money Laundering Prevention Ordinance, 2008 by passing a bill with retrospective effect from April 15, 2008. The immediate past caretaker government promulgated the ordinance repealing the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2003 ignoring the Supreme Court directives that say an act of parliament cannot be repealed by promulgation of ordinance.

A special committee in its report placed in parliament recommended ratifying the money laundering ordinance on subject to amendment to it. But the House ratified the ordinance ignoring the special committee's recommendation.

Pointing to the committee's recommendation, BNP lawmaker Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury said the report has become the property of the House.

"Ignoring the recommendation of the committee without disapproving the recommendation in parliament is tantamount to contempt of the House," the BNP lawmaker said.

Special Committee's chief Advocate Rahmat Ali however disagreed with Salahuddin's contentions.

The House also passed two bills ratifying the same number of ordinances --National Board of Revenue (amendment) Ordinance, 2008 and the President's (Remuneration and Privileges) Ordinance, 2007.

Three more bills were passed as part of supplementary orders of the day. They are Bangladesh Shilpa Bank (amendment) Ordinance, 2008, Bangladesh Laws (revision and declaration) Amendment Ordinance 2008 and Anti-terrorist Bill-2009.

The opposition lawmakers walked out of the House before passage of these bills as well.

The opposition lawmakers however withdrew their resolutions for disapproval of the ordinance that increased the president's discretionary fund to Tk 1 crore from Tk 50 lakh.

BNP lawmaker Salahuddin said they submitted the resolution for disapproval of the ordinance when an "unconstitutional" president, Iajuddin Ahmed, was in office.

"Now a constitutional president is in office. So, we support the ordinance," he added.

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