Bangladesh's apex court declares non-party caretaker government system illegal

16:58, May 10, 2011      

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Bangladesh's apex court Tuesday declared illegal the constitutional provision for the non-party caretaker government system in the country.

The South Asian country's Supreme Court (SC) has repealed the 13th amendment in constitution but said the next 10th and 11th parliamentary elections may be held under the system to avoid any chaos.

The apex court, however, observed that parliament, meanwhile, is at liberty to amend the law under which the chief justice or any other judges of the Appellate Division of SC are not involved in the non-party government system in the next two elections.

The non-party caretaker government of Bangladesh is a form of government system in which the country is ruled by a selected government for an interim period during transition from one government to another, after the completion tenure of the former.

As the outgoing government hands over their power, the caretaker government comes into place and its main objective is to create an environment in which an election can be held in a free and fair manner without any political influence of the outgoing government.

The head of the caretaker government is called the chief adviser and is selected by the president while the chief adviser selects up to 10 other advisers. In line with the 13 amendment in constitution, the chief advisor will be the last retired chief justice.

"The Constitution (Thirteenth amendment) Act 1996 (Act 1 of 1996) is prospectively declared void and ultra vires the Constitution," said the SC order Tuesday.

The six-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque, delivered the judgment, upon a petition against a High Court (HC) judgment that rejected an appeal challenging the 13th amendment to the constitution.

The bench, which heard the petition from March 1 to April 6, also heard the views of eight senior lawyers as "amici curiae" ( friends of court).

In 2004, the HC declared the caretaker government system legal and observed that the change did not distort the basic structure of the charter following the writ petition as public interest litigation filed in January, 2000.

Thereafter, the petitioners, who said that the caretaker government system goes against the republican character of the state, moved their plea to the Appellate Division of the SC against the HC order.

The caretaker government system was first introduced in 1990 when three political alliances jointly made a demand for it after military strongman HM Ershad was deposed.

The system was institutionalized through the 13th amendment in 1996 by the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government under pressure from the then main opposition Bangladesh Awami League (AL), now ruling party. Since 1996, the caretaker government has held the elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008.

But huge questions were raised about the system's fate after the last caretaker government, formed in January 2007 during emergency rule followed by political crisis, ruled the country for nearly two years.

The last caretaker government had, therefore, exceeded its mandated term, which according to the constitution allows it to stay only for 90 days.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who formed government after a landslide victory in 9th parliamentary elections in 2008, has recently proposed as AL president a special parliamentary committee on charter review to put a timeframe on the non-party caretaker government.

She also suggested if the caretaker government fails to hold elections in three months' period, the previous elected government would do the job.

But the country's main opposition party BNP led by two time former PM Khaleda Zia says the AL government is hatching conspiracy to cancel the caretaker system to hold parliament election under its regime.

"Parliamentary election without caretaker government will not be allowed to be held in the country and people will not accept it, " BNP said.

Source: Xinhua
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