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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: 50
January 5 , 2008

This week's issue:
Law Opinion
Law Book Review
Human Rights Analysis
Law Analysis
Rights Investigation
Human Rights Advocacy
Law Week

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Law week

HC rejected the writ petition
Govt continues to be called caretaker

The High Court (HC) rejected a writ petition that sought a change in the nomenclature of the present government to call it an 'interim government' instead of a 'caretaker government', and sought permission to appoint more advisers for it for smooth functioning of the administration. Saying that there is no mention in the country's constitution of any interim government, an HC bench that was hearing the petition said the incumbent government will continue to be termed a 'caretaker government'. The rejection also blocked expansion of the cabinet. The two-member HC bench, however, said the court might hear a new petition regarding failure of the Election Commission (EC) to hold the pending general election within 90 days of dissolution of the last parliament, if the petitioner files one. Advocate Masood R Sobhan, who filed the public interest litigation writ petition on December 13 last year, told The Daily Star that the court rejected his petition as 'not pressed'. He said he is pondering filing of a new petition challenging the EC decision to hold the election in 2008 'in violation of the constitution through failing to hold it within the stipulated 90 days period'. During the hearing, Sobhan said the present government that took over office after dissolution of the eighth parliament was called a 'caretaker government'. -- The Daily Star, January 8.

EC to redraw outline of constituencies
The Election Commission (EC) announced a plan for redrawing the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies in 61 districts of the country based on densities of population in an effort to maintain a consistency in the number of voters for each seats. According to the EC guidelines for redrawing the constituencies, the number of parliamentary seats for urban areas will significantly increase, particularly for city corporation areas, while rural areas are set to witness a decrease in the number of seats representing them. Each of the 300 newly demarcated constituencies will be made up of over 4 lakh people as the 2001 population census report says the enumerated population of the country stood at over 12.3 crore at the time of the census while the total population including the heads not counted was estimated at 13 crore. Urban areas will have more seats representing them in the parliament due to a massive migration of the population especially to metropolitan cities for employment in the past decade. For instance, Dhaka City Corporation areas with a population of around one crore is likely to have over 20 constituencies instead of the current eight. --The Daily Star, January 9.

Make sure new HR body has teeth to try everyone
Amnesty International (AI) Secretary General Irene Khan called on the government to ensure that the new human rights commission has the teeth to try everyone, and to ensure fair trials for imprisoned politicians. She also asked the government to make the police transparent, and to respect human rights. The AI chief, a Bangladeshi national, expressed her concern at government restrictions on the media and human rights activists, and at reported curbs on websites, adding that the interim administration will lose public confidence if it does not uphold human rights. Irene said democracy and human rights are meaningless if issues such as poverty and women's rights are not addressed, as she endorsed a citizens' charter for laying out the fundamental rights of the people for sustaining the democratic process. She was speaking as the keynote speaker at a seminar titled 'Overcoming Disappointments of Democracy' organised jointly by The Daily Star and the Prothom Alo. Other speakers at the seminar, economist Wahiduddin Mahmud and former attorney general AF Hasan Arif, also called for a national consensus on key issues to sustain democracy in Bangladesh. -- Prothom Alo, January 9.

Due process not followed in some cases
Amnesty International (AI) Secretary General Irene Khan said due process under the state of emergency is "not being followed in some cases" and called for lifting restrictions on the media. "Some regulations were made under the state of emergency, and in some cases due process is not being followed," she told reporters after a meeting with Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury. Irene called for lifting emergency restrictions on the media "although those are not being imposed" and for scrapping the criminal liability act. About holding trial of the war criminals of 1971, she said the Amnesty International always demands the trial of war criminals. She urged the government to seek help of the United Nations in holding the trial as she said the UN has extensive experience about this issue. In this context, she mentioned the case of Cambodia where war criminals were tried. The international human-right watchdog's chief executive, who visited the victims of JMB militants in Rajshahi, said the victims of JMB militants want to return to their own houses but they could not go back out of fear. Now, of course, they feel secured, she observed.-- The Daily Star, January 9.

Five new advisers take oath
Five new advisers to the caretaker government were sworn at Bangabhaban to replace the advisers who resigned in the last few days. The new advisers are AMM Shawkat Ali, former agriculture secretary, AF Hassan Ariff, former attorney general, Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre, Major General (retd) Ghulam Quader, former director general of National Security Intelligence, and Rasheda K Choudhury, chief executive officer of Campaign for Popular Education. Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed is likely to distribute today the portfolios of over 16 ministries among the newly appointed advisers, sources in the cabinet division said. Six to seven assistants will also be appointed in a couple of days to assist the administration as it failed earlier to expand the advisory council because of the constitutional obligation not to have more than 11 advisers including the chief adviser, sources said. -- The Daily Star, January 10.

Ex-director of NBR sued for ill-gotten wealth
Former National Board of Revenue (NBR) director Jahurul Haque and his wife were sued for amassing wealth beyond their known sources of income and concealing information in the wealth statement submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). ACC Deputy Director Moniruzzaman Khan filed the case with Ramna Police Station against Jahurul and his wife Afia Haque for amassing Tk 1.53 crore beyond known sources of income and concealing information about wealth worth Tk 1.25 crore in the statement. Afia submitted the wealth statement on March 3 on behalf of her absconding husband after the High Court ordered the ACC to accept it. Earlier, the ACC had asked Jahurul to submit the wealth statement in person. But he sent his nephew Tauhidul Islam to submit it prompting the commission to deny accepting the wealth statement. It was mentioned in the first information report (FIR) that Jahurul concealed information about his wealth including 238 tolas of gold and several plots. The complainant said Afia was accused in the case for abetting her husband in amassing wealth illegally. -- The Daily Star, January 10.

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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