Bangladesh`s apex court revokes caretaker govt system

An appellate division of the Supreme Court here Tuesday declared illegal a constitutional amendment that introduced the system of holding elections under caretaker governments in Bangladesh.

Updated: May 10, 2011, 16:54 PM IST

Dhaka: An appellate division of the
Supreme Court here Tuesday declared illegal a constitutional amendment that introduced the system of holding elections under caretaker governments in Bangladesh, but said the next
two polls "might be" held under the provision to avoid chaos.

The Supreme Court bench said the 13th amendment that
introduced the existing system of caretaker governments in
1996 was "ultra vires" or "beyond the powers" of constitution.

"The constitutional (13th Amendment Act, 1996) Act is
prospectively declared void and ultra vires to the
constitution," read verdict of the six-member apex court
division headed by chief justice A B M Khairul Haque against a
2004 High Court judgement.

But, the verdict reached by majority of the six-member
apex court bench, said the next tenth and eleventh
parliamentary elections set to held in 2013 and 2018 "might
be" held under the existing caretaker government system to
evade chaotic situations.

The Appellate Division verdict said the majority of
the judges reached the decision in accepting the appeal filed
by a now dead Supreme Court lawyer.

The High Court in a 2004 verdict rejected a writ by a
Supreme Court lawyer who sought scrapping of the 13th
amendment, which said the country`s immediate past chief
justice would preferably be head of the caretaker government.

The provision prescribed installation of the non-party
and non-elected caretaker government for 90 days to oversee
general elections at the end of the tenure of an elected
government.

The appellate division judgement allowed the next two
general elections to be held under the existing system
following the "age old principles" that suggest -- some
otherwise unlawful things can be lawful because of necessity,
"safety of the people is the Supreme Law" and "safety of the
state is the Supreme Law".

"Parliament, however, in the meantime, is at liberty
to bring necessary amendments excluding the provisions of
making former chief justices or other former apex court judges
as head of the caretaker government," the judgement said.

The verdict came after 10 days of hearing when it
heard opinions of eight leading jurists as "amici curiae" or
"friends of the court" with a majority of them suggesting that
the provision of appointing former chief justices exposed the
Supreme Court to a difficult situation in keeping the higher
judiciary beyond political controversies.

The Jatiya Sangsad had amended the constitution
introducing the caretaker government system in the country in
1996 after a protracted campaign by the then main opposition
Awami League of incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Awami League at that time feared that elections under
the then ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party could be rigged
under the influence of the incumbent regime.

PTI