February 18, 2004
: Amid abstention of major opposition parties, the Jatiya Sangsad [the Bangladesh parliament] Tuesday night passed a bill for formation of an anti-corruption commission.
The Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2004 paves the path for the government to form an independent commission that would investigate corruption charges and arrange trial of people, found guilty of corruption, by special judges.
The new law provides for financial autonomy of the commission, made up of a chairman and two commissioners.
The president will appoint the chairman and the commissioners for four-year term, on recommendations from a five-member selection panel.
TIB terms bill ‘cynical deception’
The Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based international corruption watchdog Transparency International rejected the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2004 as a ‘cynical deception’ and ‘betrayal of nation’s hope’, a few hours before it was passed by the Jatiya Sangsad Tuesday night.
Professor Khan Sarwar Murshid, chairperson of the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International, told a news conference in the afternoon that the bill did not provide for an independent anti-corruption commission as demanded by civil society. “We are upset, perturbed and astonished.”
As it will not enjoy any financial privilege in the way the Election Commission and the Office of Comptroller and Auditor General does, its activities will be affected, he said. “It will become a submissive and ineffective body like the Bureau of Anti-Corruption.” The bill does not give the commission the right to take any suo moto action against any corrupt person, he said.
Murshid feared that the government might influence appointment of the commissioners as the bill did not have any provision for inclusion of a representative from the opposition in the selection panel.
The amendment also overlooked recommendations made by civil-society members at various forums for prosecuting sitting lawmakers and ministers on corruption charges and also probing monetary matters in the political process, he pointed out.
- Financially autonomous
- Special judges for trial
- Independent prosecution unit
- No government permission required
- Bureau of Anti-Corruption dissolvedThe bill was passed by voice vote at 9:10pm after a heated debate over amendment proposals, moved by Abdul Kader Siddiqi of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Janata League and independent lawmaker MM Shaheen.The House eventually rejected Siddiq’s proposals that public opinion be elicited for the bill and that the bill be sent to the select committee.
Six lawmakers from the Ershad-led faction of the Jatiya Party also submitted amendment proposals, but those were not moved as the lawmakers are now on an indefinite boycott of parliament.
The law incorporates a number of proposals from the parliamentary standing committee on the law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry.
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed, who piloted the bill in the House, said the day should be marked as historic as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government of Khaleda Zia fulfilled one of its major election pledges.
“We wanted the country to be free of corruption and have proved that the alliance government is sincere to curb corruption,” he told the House.
Siddiqi walked out of the House, terming the law “submissive” and in protest against the law minister’s remarks that he regarded as a personal attack.
Once it comes into being through government notification, the commission will deal with offences related to corrupt practices by public servants as well as private citizens.
It will investigate and arrange trial of offenders. The Bureau of Anti-Corruption stands dissolved with the passage of the law.
Corruption cases under trial will be transferred to special judges’ court, to be established in accordance with the law.
The offences will be disposed of under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1958.
Accepting two amendment proposals from ruling party lawmaker Advocate Mahbub Uddin Ahmad, who is also chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the law ministry, the minister said these would ensure that there would no interference from the administration in filing any case by the commission and subsequent investigations.
Mahbub’s amendment was related to disposal of appeals under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.
He has proposed that the law should be effective without imposing section 6 (5) and (6) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 1958 that requires government permission before any proceedings against any government servant.
He has also proposed that the anti-corruption bill be made effective no matter what the criminal law suggests.
The government on July 10 last year piloted the bill in parliament, which sent it to relevant standing committee for scrutiny.
The committee finalised the bill after seven meeting and incorporated some major changes.
As per recommendations of the parliamentary body, the commission would comprise three commissioners, of whom one will be chairman. The commissioners will be nominated by a five-member select panel, which would include two justices, one each the Appellate and the High Court Divisions of the Supreme Court, Comptroller and Auditors General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, and immediate-past cabinet secretary. The chief justice will nominate the two judges.
However, the commission will not be a constitutional body though it was proposed during a scrutiny meeting.
In addition to the commissioners, subordinate officials of the commission will enjoy the power of investigating, and will be given power similar to that of an officer-in-charge of a police station.
The anti-corruption commission will be an independent body with financial autonomy as enjoyed by the high court. But the government will fix the salary and other privileges of the commissioners. In line with the report of the parliamentary committee, the government dropped the sections that were supposed to deal with functions of the commission.
In the earlier proposal, the commission’s functions also included investigation into allegation of corruption suo moto or lodged by any affected person and review any existing system for checking corruption under existing provisions of law and recommend to the president for effective measures in this direction.