Dhaka: The head of Bangladesh`s independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Thursday sharply criticised a new law aimed at clipping its powers, saying it made the statutory body "subservient" to the government.
"The new law has made the Commission subservient. The people of the country will not accept it," a visibly angry Mohammad Shahabuddin, acting chairman of the ACC, told a function to mark the anniversary of the body`s foundation day.
"An unholy alliance has acted to make the bill into a law," he said.
His reaction came a day after President Abdul Hamid signed into law a bill that requires the ACC to seek approval from the government to investigate allegations against government officials and employees.
Local and international graft watchdogs earlier protested the initiative to "cripple" the Commission. The parliament passed the bill on November 10, defying the recommendations of a parliamentary committee.
Shahabuddin said the law draws a discretionary line between "two kinds of citizens" and contradicts the constitutional decree that all citizens are equal in the eyes of law. The initiative will eventually prove counterproductive to the government, he said.
Former ACC chairman Golam Rahman backed his colleague, saying, "It is a clear violation of the Constitution.
"I believe the new law will be declared null and void if anybody challenges it in the High Court," he told.
Rahman said he feared honest officers would lose a
safeguard if they chose to defy motivated directives from "corrupt superiors". Earlier, they could protect themselves during ACC interventions, he said.
"This law will also will affect the ACC`s dynamism," he added.
During the past few years, the ACC initiated probes against several government officials, a ruling party lawmaker and three High Court judges. These investigations are still underway.
According to Berlin-based Transparency International, Bangladesh was the "most corrupt country" in 2005. Last year, the country was ranked 144th among 176 countries in the graft watchdog`s index, scoring only 26 out of 100.
The previous army-backed interim government, which ran the country during 2006-08, launched a massive anti-graft campaign and appointed a former army chief as the ACC`s head with the status of minister.
Some 200 high-profile people were arrested and dozens of former ministers and lawmakers fled Bangladesh to evade justice while the ACC campaign was underway.
The current government downgraded the ACC chief`s status to the level of a Supreme Court judge after Gen (retired) Hassan Mashhud Chowdhury resigned as the anti-graft body`s chief four years ago.