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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 245
July 8, 2006

This week's issue:
Human Rights Analysis
UN Update
Financial Market Regulation
Law Alter Views
Human Rights Monitor
Rights Corner
Law Campaign
Law Week

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Law Week

JS passes public procurement bill
The parliament passed the Public Procurement Bill 2006 seeking to bring efficiency, transparency and accountability in government purchases -- wherein generally remains the biggest scope for kickbacks. The bill also provides for 'equal opportunity' for those who will intend to participate in the procurement and open competition. On behalf of Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, State Minister for Power Anwarul Kabir Talukder, who had been earlier in the finance ministry, piloted the bill that was passed by voice vote without much discussion, as opposition Awami League was not present because of their walkout. Talukder said the bill was prepared with opinions from officials of different ministries and corporations as well as the practices followed at national and international levels and guidelines of the country's development partners. The House accepted an amendment to the bill moved by Kader Siddiqui. Earlier, two bills were introduced in the parliament. Law Minister Barrister Maudud Ahmed introduced 'The Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill 2006', and State Minister for Labour and Employment Aman Ullah Aman introduced 'The State-owned Industrial Workers (Service Conditions) Bill 2006'. Both the bills were sent to respective parliamentary standing committees for further scrutiny. --Unb, Dhaka, July 3.

HC halts further construction of road through graveyard
The High Court (HC) issued a rule asking the government to explain within four weeks why the decision to construct a road through Azimpur Graveyard will not be declared illegal. The court also issued a stay order on further construction of the road. A HC bench issued the rule on LGRD secretary, Dhaka city mayor, administrative officer and health officer of Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and the officer-in- charge of Lalbagh Police Station. The rule was issued upon a writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), seeking a court order to stop construction of the road through the graveyard reportedly by the local MP-owned construction firm. Advocates Manzilll Murshid and Asaduzzaman Siddique moved the writ petition on behalf of the HRPB while Deputy Attorney general Jamal Akhter Bulbul stood for the defendants. --The Daily Star, July 4.

SC stays DNA test on ex-DIG's wife, kids
The Supreme Court (SC) stayed for a month the operation of a High Court (HC) order asking the ex-DIG of police to send his wife along with her septuplets to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for DNA test to prove the parentage of the babies. Chamber court of Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury passed the interim order upon an application filed by Alena Khan, executive director of Bangladesh Society for Enforcement of Human Rights (BSEHR). On June 18, the High Court issued the order for DNA test abroad following a public interest litigation (PIL) writ filed by Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers Association (BNWLA) seeking custody of the seven infants, airing doubt about parenthood of the children and apprehending a racket for trafficking them out. The HC had also given a four-month deadline to comply with its order for the ex-DIG, Anisur Rahman, the disputed father, to submit the DNA test report. Dr M Zahir, the counsel for Alena Khan, submitted before the chamber court that apprehension is not ruled out that if the seven infants along with her, the disputed mother, left Singapore for DNA test, they might not return home. --Unb, Dhaka, July 4.

EC mulls changes in electoral laws
The Election Commission (EC) is planning to make registration of political parties mandatory, a hitherto optional provision in electoral laws, which was introduced five years ago and has been conveniently ignored so far by the major political parties. According to sources the EC is also planning to increase the ceiling on a candidate's election expenditure to Tk 10 lakh from the previous ceiling of Tk 5 lakh. In addition, it is mulling over introduction of tougher punishment including imprisonment for six months and fine of Tk 50,000 for irregularities in electoral campaigns, and reintroduction of the EC's power to cancel candidatures, the sources said. Directed by the EC, officials of its secretariat started preparing a draft of the proposals, but the commission has yet to decide when it will submit the reform proposals to the government, as it is seemingly buckling under the burden of the task of updating the voter list, the sources added. "We don't know when the Election Commission will send the proposals to the government," a senior EC official told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity. However, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) MA Aziz on several occasions told reporters that the EC will send a set of proposals to the government in due time. --The Daily Star, July 5.

Tax ombudsman takes office in couple of days
The first tax ombudsman of the country, Khairuzzaman Chowdhury, is likely to take office in a couple of days. The government has appointed Chowdhury for a four-year term as the tax ombudsman to oversee the taxpayers' accounts. Chowdhury spent his last day at office as the chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR). The tax ombudsman will have the same privileges and status of a High Court judge. The appointment letter of the ombudsman stated that the role of the tax ombudsman would be to help curb corruption of tax officials and take preventive measures against bribery and tax evasion. Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Abdul Karim was appointed the new chairman of NBR. --The Daily Star, July 5.

Most prisons overcrowded
Most of the prisons of the country have been overcrowded, State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar informed the House. A total of 71, 290 inmates are housed in the prisons whereas the capacity of the prisons is 27, 291, added the state minister. Replying to a query by Awami League lawmaker Rahmat Ali, the minister said there were 68,992 male and 2,298 female inmates in 67 prisons in the country till June 1 against the accommodation capacity for 26,163 male and 1,128 female prisoners. Of the 67 prisons, Dhaka Central Jail accommodates highest 8,111 prisoners against the capacity of 2, 682. Answering to ruling BNP lawmaker Shamsuddin Ahmed's query, the state minister said after the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) was launched on March 26, 2004, 231 members of the force have been punished for various crimes till June 26 this year. The state minister said 42 members of the Rab have been awarded with Bangladesh Police Medal and Prime Minister's Police Medal, 21 members with Testimonials and 14 with Inspector General of Police's exemplary good service badges. --The Daily Star, July 5.

PM assures EC secy of help for flawless list
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia assured newly appointed secretary of the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat Abdur Rashid Sarkar of providing with all-out cooperation for preparing a flawless voter list, sources said. Abdur Rashid said the voter list should be updated by visiting door to door for the sake of its flawlessness. "I will suggest the Election Commission to reconsider its decision on not visiting door to door. I personally believe that visiting door to door is essential for updating the voter list considering the reality," Rashid, who met the PM at her office, told The Daily Star. "But the Election Commission has the authority to take any decision while the secretariat just implements those decisions," he said. He added that it is possible to complete updating of the existing voter list within the time remaining if the commission changes its decision. Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Mahfuzur Rahman claimed that the EC is not aware of the sluggish progress of the voter list updating task and confirmed that the EC is not thinking to reconsider the method. On his meeting with the PM, Abdur Rashid said it was a courtesy call: "I sought cooperation from the prime minister." Highly placed sources in the government said annoyed by the EC's stubborn attitude regarding updating of the voter list without visiting door to door, the government appointed Abdur Rashid secretary of the EC Secretariat on July 3. Rashid, who was the secretary at the food and disaster management ministry, expressed his opinion in favour of visiting door to door for updating the existing voter list. --The Daily Star, July 6.

Corresponding with the Law Desk
Please send your mails, queries, and opinions to: Law Desk, The Daily Star 19 Karwan Bazar, Dhaka-1215; telephone 8124944,8124955,fax 8125155;email <dslawdesk@yahoo.co.uk,lawdesk@thedailystar.net


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