The report on “Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners Bill-2022" was placed in parliament on Wednesday with some changes in eligibility and ineligibility criteria for the appointment of CEC and ECs.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry M Shahiduzzaman Sarker placed the report.
The committee changed section 6 (gha) of the Bill where it was mentioned that anyone convicted of a criminal offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced to at least two years’ imprisonment would not be eligible for the post of CEC and election commissioners.
It removed the two-year term of imprisonment and kept only the term “imprisonment” saying that one convicted in a criminal offence of moral turpitude for any term shall not be eligible to be appointed as CEC or Election Commissioner.
For becoming CEC and EC, one should have at least 20 years of working experience in any important government, judicial, semi-government or private posts.
The parliamentary committee has recommended bringing an amendment to this section and adding 'autonomous and other professions' besides government, judicial, semi-government or private posts.
If the law is passed with this amendment, people from different professional bodies—autonomous and other professions—will be eligible for the post of CEC and ECs.
Law Minister Anisul Huq placed the bill in parliament on January 23 seeking to give a legal shield to the current and previous Election Commissions formed through search committees.
The bill was later sent to the parliamentary standing committee on the law ministry for scrutiny.
Once passed, the law will provide legal cover to all the activities of the search committees.
The tenure of the incumbent commission, led by CEC KM Nurul Huda, expires next month.
Ahead of the general elections in 2014 and 2018, the president picked CECs and other commissioners in 2012 and 2017 following recommendations by search committees.
The government move came nearly 50 years after the constitution prescribed enacting a specific law for forming the EC.
The bill says the previous search committees, their functions and the appointments of the CECs and other commissioners made following their recommendations will be deemed valid, and no question can be raised in any court over the matter.
It will be considered that the incumbent and previous ECs were constituted as per the law.
As per the proposed law, a six-member search committee will be formed following the president's approval for forming the EC.
"The search committee will recommend the names of candidates for the chief election commissioner and other commissioners to the president…" it said.
The bill gives legal validity to the previous two search committees.
The qualification of CEC and election commissioners, after the recommendation from the Parliamentary Committee, are: They must be Bangladeshi citizens with minimum 50 years of age, and have at least 20 years of work experience in important government, semi-government, private or judicial posts, autonomous and other professions.
If one is declared “insane” by any court; has not been released from the jail after being declared as ‘bankruptcy’; acquires the citizenship of or affirms the allegiance to, a foreign country surrendering Bangladeshi citizenship; has been convicted for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced imprisonment; convicted by international crime tribunal; and is disqualified for such posts by or under any law, he or she would not be eligible for the post of CEC and election commissioners.
A person once held the post of CEC or the Chief Justice, he or she would not be eligible for the post of the CEC. But if a person held the post of election commissioner, he or she might be considered for appointment to the CEC.
In order to give legal protection to the constitution of previous election commissions, it would be considered that these were made under this law, the bill said.
A justice of the Appellate Division, nominated by the Chief Justice, will be the head of the six-member search committee.
The five other members will be a justice of the High Court Division nominated by the chief justice, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chairman of the Bangladesh Public Service Commission, two other eminent personalities nominated by the president.
What Constitution says
Though the Constitution suggests the appointment of the CEC and other election commissioners under a law, the law was not formulated in the past.
The Article 118 (1) of the Constitution states, “There shall be an Election Commission for Bangladesh consisting of 1[the Chief Election Commissioner and not more than four Election Commissioners] and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (if any) shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf, be made by the president.”
In the past, the president appointed the CEC and commissioners in absence of the law.
The last two election commissions, headed by Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed and KM Nurul Huda, were constituted through search committees formed by the president following his dialogues with political parties.
The president picked the CEC and four election commissioners in 2012 and 2017 from the names suggested by the search committees.
This time, President Abdul Hamid also held a dialogue with registered political parties to discuss the issues related to the constitution of the Election Commission ahead of the 12th general election to be held at the end of 2023 or the early 2024.
The tenure of the incumbent KM Nurul Huda-led election commission expires on February 14.
The cabinet approved the draft of appointing CEC and other election commissioners on January 17.