HC questions legality of RPO 2008
Friday, 29 August 2008

Asks govt to explain why sections of it should not be declared unconstitutional

Staff Correspondent

The High Court on Thursday asked the government to explain why sections of the amended RPO relating to political party's constitution and politics based on religion should not be declared unconstitutional.

The bench of justices Syed Mahmud Hossain and Farid Ahmed made the ruling in line with a writ petition filed by Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed.
 
The sections of the Representation of the People Order (Amendment) Ordinance 2008 highlighted by the High Court Thursday are those relating to party elections, reserved posts, front organisations and religious or other discrimination in partu constitutions.
 
The amended RPO has made it mandatory for political parties to elect members of committees at all levels, including members of the central committee.
 
A party's constitution must also have provisions to fix the goal of reserving at least 33 percent of all committee positions for women and successively achieving this goal by the year 2020.
 
On front organisations, the new law states: "The parties must include provisions in their constitutions to prohibit formation of any organisation or body as its affiliated or associated body consisting of the teachers or students of any educational institution or the employees or labourers of any financial, commercial or industrial institution or establishment."
 
The amended RPO also says a political party will not qualify for registration if any discrimination regarding religion, race, caste, language or sex is apparent in its constitution, or if it threatens to destroy communal harmony or lead the country to territorial disintegration.
 
The government published the ordinance amending the Representation of the People Order 1972 by gazette on Aug 21.
 
The cabinet had originally approved in principle a new Representation of People Ordinance 2008 to replace the Representation of the People Order 1972, but went for amendment as the move to repeal the original RPO was strongly opposed by political parties.
 
The amendments to the RPO were made in line with reform talks arranged by the Election Commission. The EC started electoral-reform work in February last year, including two rounds of dialogue with political parties, and with civil society members.

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