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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: 43
November 10 , 2007

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Law Opinion
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Law vision
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Law week

AL agrees to army role in polls
The Awami League (AL) has dramatically retreated from its stance on opposing a provision of the existing electoral laws, which empowers the defence forces including the army with magistracy powers during parliamentary elections. Over the last two and a half years the AL-led 14-party alliance has been strongly opposing the provision enacted by a caretaker government before the eighth parliamentary elections in 2001. But the AL now agreed with the provision. A high-powered AL delegation led by party's Acting President Zillur Rahman placed a set of proposals, including their consent to the provision, at the party's electoral reform talks with the EC. -- The Daily Star, November 5.

Govt working for strong local govt, transparency
Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed said the government is working to strengthen the local government so that it can take its services to people's doorsteps and bring transparency and accountability in all sectors. A high-powered experts committee formed earlier will next month submit its recommendations on strengthening the local government structure, he said while addressing top bureaucrats at the Cabinet Division. He asked the secretaries of different ministries and departments to focus more on output and outcome while implementing government programmes so that people get the best from all inputs in the socio-economic sectors. --The Daily Star, November 7.

Genocide Act enough to try war criminals
The government may still try war criminals under the much-neglected Genocide Act 1973, which allows it to set up tribunals to try and punish members of military and 'auxiliary' forces from any country guilty of war crimes and genocide in Bangladesh. The central figure in drafting the act, Dr Kamal Hossain, told The Daily Star, "In principle, this law is in force and can be invoked for all the cases that fall under its ambit." The inclusion of auxiliary forces in the act allows setting up of a tribunal by the government to try and punish war criminals from forces such as Al-Badr, Al-Shams, and Peace Committees that were formed in 1971 against the war of liberation of Bangladesh, if it can be proven that they were under the control of the occupying Pakistani military. The punishments under the act are either death or any other appropriate penalty commensurate to the gravity of the war crime committed. Dr Kamal however added that the definition of 'auxiliary forces' should be carefully examined after looking at the necessary evidence of the activities of forces such as Al-Badr and Al-Shams. The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 (ICA), promulgated on July 20, 1973 empowers the government to try individuals on specific charges of crimes against humanity and peace, genocide, war crimes, violation of the Geneva Convention and international laws, for assistance or conspiracy to commit such crimes, and for failure to prevent commissioning of such crimes.--The Daily Star, November 7.

CEC says they followed 'doctrine of necessity'
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda said the Election Commission (EC) had followed the 'doctrine of necessity' in deciding to invite the Saifur-led faction to the talks on electoral reforms. He claimed the EC has taken the right decision and now there's nothing to do about it. However, if any party feels aggrieved they can go to the courts of law. He referred to the phrase when his attention was drawn to the BNP constitution that does not provide for acting chairman and acting secretary general and empowers only the chairperson to convene and preside over the party's standing committee meeting. Asked to explain the doctrine, Huda said: "The party chairperson is in prison. It's not possible for her to convene a meeting or discharge other duties. But the party cannot wait or stagnate. It has to be run. When such was the situation, senior leaders took an initiative and we consider the standing committee's meeting appropriate." -- The Daily Star, November 7.

Harris handed 59 years behind bars
A Dhaka court yesterday, for the third time, sentenced Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to detained former prime minister Khaleda Zia, to 59 years' imprisonment in connection with giving a government automobile to his friend for using it. Meanwhile, former BNP lawmaker Nurul Islam Moni and three of his party men were sentenced to 14 years' rigorous imprisonment in absentia in connection with embezzlement of government relief materials.

Judge Moahmmad Azizul Haque of the Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court handed down the sentence on Harris, in absentia, dividing terms of offence into five parts. The term of offence starts from February 13, 2002 and ends on January 31, 2007. But the convict will have to serve only 10 years' imprisonment if arrested or he surrenders, as the court gave the 10 years' highest punishment for a term. The court could not deliver the verdict against one of his accomplices Amin Badal, who used the automobile, as the proceedings of the case against him was earlier stayed on an order from the High Court (HC). The court gave the verdict sentencing Harris to 44 years' imprisonment under section 409 (Criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC) while Tk 21 lakh as fine under section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. If he fails to pay the fine, he will have to serve another 15 years more in jail. In his judgement, the court said the charges brought against Harris were proved beyond doubt and the punishment of the fugitive would be effective from the day of his arrest or surrender. --The Daily Star November 08, 2007.

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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