New draft law on Election Commission formation formalises search committee process

The draft of a new law on the formation of the Election Commission, which includes a provision regarding a search panel for appointments, has been tabled in parliament.

Law Minister Anisul Huq introduced the draft of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner Appointment Bill 2022 on Sunday.

The bill will be sent to the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for scrutiny. The committee has to report back on its findings to parliament.

"If the proposed bill becomes a law, the appointment of chief election commissioner and other election commissioners will be transparent and impartial, democracy will be consolidated and institutionalised and public interest will be upheld," said Anisul Huq.

SEARCH PANEL

The search panel will follow the principles of transparency and impartiality, according to the draft law.

It will take into account the qualifications, inadequacies, experiences, skills and reputations of individuals and make recommendations to the president for appointment to the posts of CEC and EC.

The panel will recommend two persons for each post. The recommendations will be submitted to the president within 10 working days of the formation of the panel.

The search panel may call for names from political parties and professional organisations to find deserving candidates.

MEMBERS

The draft law states that the president will form a six-member search panel.

The panel will be headed by a judge of the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, who will be nominated by the chief justice. Other members will include a High Court judge also nominated by the chief justice, the comptroller and auditor-general, the chairman of a government commission and two prominent citizens nominated by the president. A quorum will be met in the presence of three members.

The Cabinet Division will provide secretarial assistance to the panel.

QUALIFICATION CRITERIA

To get a recommendation, the bill says that an individual must fulfil three requirements: the person must be a Bangladeshi citizen, he or she must be at least 50 years old, and must have at least 20 years of work experience in any important government, judicial, semi-government or private job.

DISQUALIFICATION CRITERIA

A person will be disqualified from the post for six reasons – if they are held in contempt of court, if they fail to repay debts after declaring bankruptcy, if they take the citizenship of a foreign country or declare or accept allegiance to a foreign country, if they are convicted of a criminal offence and are sentenced to at least two years in prison, if they are convicted of any offence under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 or Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order 1972, or if they hold an office of profit in the republic.

CONTEXT

According to Article 118 (1) of the Constitution, the bill will be brought to give a legal shield to the appointments of the chief election commissioners and other commissioners to form the Election Commission.

An Awami League delegation, led by party chief Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, pose for a photo with President Abdul Hamid after talks on the formation of an Election Commission at the Bangabhaban in Dhaka on Monday, Jan 17, 2022. Photo: Press Wing, Bangabhaban

After the sudden approval of the draft law in Cabinet, the government has now taken the initiative to pass it in parliament.

The tenure of the current Election Commission, led by CEC KM Nurul Huda, will expire on Feb 14.

The committee will get only 4 weeks to issue a gazette after passing the bill, according to a government official.

The cabinet, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, approved the draft on Monday amid political parties’ talks with President Abdul Hamid on the formation of a new Election Commission.

“It’s a short act. It says that a search committee will be formed to provide recommendations to the president for appointing the chief election commissioner and election commissioner, as previous laws have,” Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam had previously told the media.

The Constitution of Bangladesh states that the president has the authority to appoint commissioners to the EC and it will be carried out under law.

“The parliamentary committee will not get much time to submit their report. The bill will be passed soon and new election commissioners will be appointed in line with the new law,” an official at the parliament said.