Insulting Remarks About Constitutional Bodies

NGOs may face tough action

JS body proposes incorporating new provision in law on foreign donations

A parliamentary body yesterday recommended incorporating a provision in a bill aimed at taking actions against any non-government organisation (NGO) for “insulting or deregulatory remarks” on constitutional bodies.

Actions will include stopping activities of the NGO identified to be punished.

The parliamentary standing committee on law came up with such recommendations while scutinising the bill, Foreign Donations Regulation (Amendment) Act, at a meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, committee chief Suranjit Sengupta told reporters at a briefing.

He, however, did not make clear as to who would determine whether insulting and derogatory remarks were made and how.

The parliamentary watchdog made the recommendations, addressing the demand put forward by a number of treasury and opposition bench MPs late last year that actions be taken against Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) for “derogatory” remarks on lawmakers and parliament.

The anti-graft watchdog in a study on October 25 last year pointed out a “low-level of participation” of MPs in lawmaking, question-answer sessions and discussions on important issues in the current parliament.

The TIB also called the Jatiya Party “so-called opposition” in parliament and said it was rather working as “B-team of the government”.

Replying to a query, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman at the time termed the present parliament a stage of puppet show.

Briefing reporters at the Jatiya Sangsad Media Centre, Suranjit yesterday said the TIB had not offered an apology as suggested by him.

“Every NGO will have to honour constitutional bodies of the country, including parliament, election commission, attorney general and judiciary.”

The government will be able to cease any NGO's activities if it humiliates parliament or any other constitutional body according to the recommendations, Suranjit said, adding that the state might get into trouble if derogatory remarks were made against the constitutional bodies.

Lambasting the TIB for its “audacious” remarks on MPs and parliament, he also said such criticism would not be acceptable.

However replying to a query, he said the constitutional bodies could be criticised but not using bad language. 

Earlier in November last year, the JS body said it would recommend cancelling the registration of the TIB for not apologising for making “derogatory comments” on parliament.

Amid such reactions to its study, the TIB Board of Trustees in a statement said, “TIB's work is not in any manner intended to undermine the institutional dignity and credibility of the National Parliament.”

Talking to The Daily Star, M Hafiz Uddin Khan, president of Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan), a civil society platform working for good governance, said this would be a “black law” whose formulation reflected the government's “dictatorial” attitude.

“No organisation which works as watchdog on parliament and other constitutional bodies will be able to do its job in fear of action if the proposed law is passed in parliament keeping such provision,” he said.

“It is clear that the government's aim is to gag those watchdog bodies so that they cannot criticise it,” added Hafiz Uddin, also former adviser to a caretaker government.

Educationalist and a development worker Rasheda K Chowdhury who was present at several meetings of the JS body, including that held yesterday, to discuss the bill with the committee members told The Daily Star that while meeting with the chiefs of different NGOs, the committee had not mentioned any such provision for inclusion.

She added that she would come up with a reaction after knowing about the matter from the parliamentary watchdog.