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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: 264
December 2, 2006

This week's issue:
Law Opinion
Law alter views
Fact File
Court Corridor
Law Campaign
Human Rights Advocacy
Rights Monitor
Law Week

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Law Week

EC rushes to set poll day Jan 21
In a surreptitious and hasty move threatening to pitch the country into further political turmoil, the Election Commission (EC) announced the schedule for the next parliamentary election, setting January 21 as the polling day. The EC Secretariat issued a gazette notification to that effect, urging the electors to choose a member from each of the 300 constituencies to constitute the ninth parliament. The announcement from the EC now headed by controversial acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Mahfuzur Rahman followed a consultation with President/Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed. Most of the advisers to the caretaker government have expressed surprise over the announcement and said they were not informed about it. The Awami League (AL) led 14-party combine, Jatiya Party (Ershad), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and some other parties that have been calling for reconstitution of the EC and opposing unveiling of the polling schedule before correction of the voter list have outright rejected the timetable. They have also declared that they will resist any attempt to hold election as per this schedule. However, the BNP-led four-party alliance that has lately been pressing the caretaker government for an immediate announcement of the schedule welcomed the decision. According to the official polls plan, December 10 is the last date for filing candidature while December 11 is the date for scrutiny of the candidatures by the ROs. Withdrawal of candidature will close on December 19. -- The Daily Star, November 28.

Man with political goal made one of 2 Ecs
The president appointed two new election commissioners -- one of them aspired to be a candidate of the four-party alliance from Habiganj-2 (Ajmiriganj-Baniachang) constituency while the other has no illustrious background. New Election Commissioner Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury is a former inspector general of police (IGP) and secretary and was an aspirant BNP candidate. The other new Election Commissioner Saiful Alam served in the lower judiciary as a judge for a long time and later served as a director general in the Anti-Corruption Commission. Following the two new election commissioners' appointment by President Iajuddin Ahmed, the chief justice administered their oath at the Supreme Court. With their inclusion, the number of election commissioners has now increased to six -- the highest ever number of election commissioners in the country. The two new commissioners went to the Election Commission (EC) office in the evening and exchanged views with the acting chief election commissioner (CEC) and other officials of the EC. Requesting anonymity, a former additional inspector general (IG) of police told The Daily Star that during the caretaker government's tenure in 2001, Modabbir, who served as the additional IG (Administration), had asked several subordinate police officers to "work for BNP and Jamaat" in the 2001 elections. -- The Daily Star, November 28.

Body to probe civil servants' secret meet
A three-member probe body was formed to investigate the meeting between former energy adviser Mahmudur Rahman and serving bureaucrats, as well as bureaucrats' involvement in the 1996 'Janatar Mancha' and another meeting between a political party and bureaucrats in 2001. The council of advisers, who set up the probe committee, has also directed the committee to list the name of all bureaucrats who have frequented the BNP chairperson's office, Hawa Bhaban and the Awami League president's residence, Sudha Sadan, and other political party offices. The committee headed by Agriculture Secretary M Abdul Aziz also have Secretary to the Youth and Sport Ministry M Aminul Islam Bhuiyan and Additional Secretary to the Law Ministry Kazi Habibul Awal as members. The committee will submit their findings by December 3, an Establishment Ministry press release said. The probe committee has been directed to identify the serving bureaucrats who frequent political offices and their specific wrongdoings. The probe committee has been directed to identify the bureaucrats who were present at the meeting held at Artisan Ceramics office with Mahmudur Rahman and probe their wrongdoings. The committee will also investigate bureaucrats who participated in the 2001 meeting between bureaucrats and the members of a certain political party held at Panda Garden restaurant. -- Prothom Alo, November 28.

Judiciary Separation
Govt given 6 weeks more
The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday gave the government another six weeks' time to separate the judiciary from the executive. The SC passed the order asking 13 government officials including four top secretaries who face contempt of court charges, to comply with the court's 12-point directive on separation of the judiciary within six weeks. In December 1999, the SC ordered the government to execute the directives for separation of the judiciary in the much-talked-about Masder Hossain case. Since then, the successive governments of Awami League and BNP-led four-party alliance have been seeking repeated time extension for doing it. The nine mid-level officials are facing contempt charges for distorting the Supreme Court directives on separation of the judiciary, while four secretaries, including the ex-principal secretary to the prime minister, Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, for impeding the process of judiciary separation. Adjourning the hearing until the latest deadline, the apex court asked the nine officials, who regularly appear in person during hearing since December 2004, to appear on January 10, 2007 and report the progress made regarding the implementation of its directives by then. Barrister M Amir-Ul Islam, assisted by Barrister Moniruzzaman Asad and Barrister Shamsul Hasan, appeared as counsel for the Masder Hossain case while Barrister Rafique-ul Huq, TH Khan and Barrister Abdur Razzak appeared for the officials. Attorney General AJ Mohammad Ali stood for the government. --UNB, Dhaka, November 28.

UN concerned about free, fair polls in Bangladesh
UN secretary general's special envoy Craig Jenness has said the United Nations is concerned about free, fair and transparent general elections in Bangladesh and urged political leadership to resolve differences in the electoral process through dialogue. "We're concerned about free, fair and transparent elections in Bangladesh and UN is ready to support the holding of free and fair elections," he told reporters after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Hemayetuddin at the foreign ministry. Explaining the purpose of his visit to Dhaka, Jenness said Secretary General Kofi Annan has sent him to offer UN support to free and fair elections here and also express concern about some violent incidents that no one desires. The visiting envoy said he would like to encourage the leaders of political parties to resolve their differences in the political process through dialogue. The UN envoy called on President/ Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed at Bangabhaban. The president told the envoy that all steps have been taken to hold free, fair, neutral and peaceful parliamentary elections and urged the United Nations to send observers to Bangladesh. Listing the measures taken to remove hurdles to the polls, the president told the envoy that the chief election commissioner had gone on leave and two new election commissioners had been appointed to satisfy political parties' demands to create a congenial atmosphere for free and fair polls. He also told the envoy that the EC had announced the election schedule. --Unb, Dhaka, November 30.

3 Writ Petitions with SC
CJ's unprecedented stay order
In an unprecedented move, the chief justice stayed the proceedings of writ petitions challenging the legality of the president's taking over as chief adviser and his "unilateral" decisions, just minutes before a High Court bench was supposed to issue a ruling on them. Shocked by the order, lawyers and those who were present in the courtroom burst into anger and vandalised different sections of the Supreme Court (SC) and set fire to the vehicle of former state minister for law Shahjahan Omar. Hearing the matter for two days, the High Court (HC) bench decided to pass a ruling. But as the court sat, Attorney General AJ Mohammad Ali handed the stay order to the HC bench at 2:15pm. The bench read out that Chief Justice Syed JR Mudassir Husain has stayed further proceedings of the writ petitions and left the courtroom. Legal experts said no incident ever took place in the history of the HC in which the chief justice issued a stay order before the bench even admitted a petition. The chief justice can only stay a case after the HC bench issues any ruling, they said. Even if a stay order is to be issued, it was to come from the chamber judge, not the chief justice, explained constitution expert Dr Kamal Hossain. Accusing the chief justice of violating his oath and the constitution, the leaders of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) announced an indefinite agitation programme to force removal of the chief justice and attorney general. --The Daily Star, December 1.


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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