Govt frees EC secretariat
Thursday, 31 January 2008

Staff Correspondent

The council of advisers on Tuesday approved the Election Commission Secretariat Ordinance 2008, which will separate the secretariat of the constitutional body from the Prime Minister's Office, which is now the Chief Adviser's Office.

The meeting, presided over by the chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, in his office, also approved the Supreme Judicial Commission Ordinance aimed at appointing 'competent judges to the Supreme Court in a transparent process' on the commission's recommendation.

The president is likely to promulgate the ordinances by gazette notifications. 'No ministry, division or directorate will have any control over the Election Commission secretariat after the Election Commission Secretariat Ordinance is promulgated,' the chief adviser's press secretary Syed Fahim Munaim told reporters after the meeting.

The commission secretariat will from now on function independently, he said. The council of advisers, however, sent back the draft ordinance for setting up a national constitutional council, aimed at appointments to constitutional offices, for further scrutiny. All advisers and special assistants to the chief adviser attended the meeting.

The meeting approved the proposal for not deducting pension from the salaries and allowances of any retired government officials appointed chairman or members of the Public Service Commission. Reacting to the approval of the ordinance, election commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain said , 'I am not yet aware of the amendments made to the ordinance.

According to the latest amendments to the proposal, the secretariat will be accountable to the Election Commission, not to the chief election commissioner, and the commissioners will be accountable to the president.'

The Election Commission earlier sent a modified proposal for the separation of its secretariat from the Prime Minister's Office (now the chief adviser's office) as it felt that the ordinance drafted by the law ministry in this regard was not enough.

The commission claimed at the time that the draft ordinance did not reflect the spirit of the commission's proposals, particularly regarding full financial and recruitment authorities to ensure effective autonomy of the constitutional body.

The commission on June 7 for the first time sent the proposal to the government seeking that the commission secretariat should be made independent of the executive through amendments to the rules of business, which now requires presidential ordinance in the absence of the parliament.

The council of advisers on June 23 approved in principle the commission proposal and directed the law ministry to prepare a draft ordinance.

Once the ordinance is promulgated, the commission will enjoy its financial independence as does the Supreme Court. The commission will propose its annual budget and the government will approve it after scrutiny.

Once the budget is passed, the commission will need no further approval of the government or any authority to spend the allocated money.

The new ordinance will empower the commission to make necessary decisions on expanding its activities to upazilas and appoint officials in line with its need and choice without seeking government approval. According to the other ordinance, the Supreme Judicial Commission will be a nine-member body, led by the chief justice.

The other members will be the law minister, two senior Appellate Division judges, the attorney general, a member of parliament selected by the leader of the house, another member of parliament selected by the leader of the opposition in the parliament, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the law secretary, who will act as member secretary to the commission.

The commission will recommend two persons for each of the vacant posts of the Supreme Court judges and the president will have to appoint one of the two recommended persons to the vacant post.

According to the ordinance, the president will have the right to send back the recommendation to the commission for revision.

'The president can also cancel the recommendations by showing grounds,' says the ordinance.

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