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December 21, 2003 

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Ministers dropped from selection body

The government has decided to drop law and finance ministers from a committee which would select the members of the proposed Anti-corruption Commission. A former cabinet secretary would replace two ministers in the selection committee. The other four members would be two judges of the Supreme Court, chairman of the Public Service Commission and the auditor and comptroller general.The commission would also get financial independence like the Supreme Court and have a wider range of activities than originally envisaged. The three-member anti-graft body will also have prosecution authority under the new decision. Law Minister Moudud Ahmed that an amendment to the bill for the commission now under scrutiny by parliament will be brought in the next session. The new move is being viewed as a result of the civil society's demand for dropping ministers from the selection body. A bill for the commission was placed in parliament on July 10 and is now lying with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law. Under its extended jurisdiction, the commission would be able to implicate accomplices of a corrupt person in the case. The commission will also be able to pursue cases relating to customs, excise, banking and foreign exchange dealings, which are now being dealt by the anti-corruption bureau.-Law Desk.

Launch security compromised

The government caved in to the pressure of launch owners and back-pedalled to the 1993 six-ansar security arrangement for ferries and large vessels from its decision to deploy 14 ansars to each. Leaders of the launch owners opposed the government decision in a meeting at home ministry. Justifying the demand for lowering the number of security personnel they said that most launch robberies took place for looting firearms from the ansars. The meeting also decided on skill building through training for the embedded ansars and equipping them with modern firearms. It also made dues and salary clearance certificate from the Ansar Headquarters mandatory for the launches to get surveillance certificate and asked their owners to clear dues and salaries by December every year and pay new ansars one-month advance during recruitment. About 2,000 large and small launches ply the 8,000 kilometres of rivers, with over 1,000 ansars serving in the passenger vessels for security. -Daily Star, 15 December.

Bail provision in WCRP Act challenged

The High Court has issued a rule nisi on the government to explain why the Section 19 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (WCRP) Act 2000 should not be declared ultra-vires and void. Section 19 of the Act empowered the tribunals concerned to deal with the bail petitions. The section says no capital accused (allegedly main offender) will be granted bail, if the plaintiff is not heard and the tribunal is satisfied that the accused may be convicted of the charge, or the accused is not a woman, child or disabled and the tribunal is not satisfied that the justice will not be hindered for granting his/her bail. It says the tribunal may grant bail to any accused other than the capital accused, putting the cause of doing so, if it thinks proper to grant bail. A High Court Division Bench of Justice Awlad Ali and Justice Miftahuddin Chowdhury passed the order hearing a writ petition filed by Maola Nursing Home, Dr Nagma Harim Afriq. Quoting the section petitioner's counsel argued that the section empowered the tribunals instead of magistrates to deal with the bail petitions. So, the section was made contrary to Article 33 of the Constitution, as the article provided for producing any person before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of arrest of the person. - Ajker Kagoj, 16 December.

UNDP submits proposal for police reform

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had submitted a $13.5 million three-year police reform proposal to the government. The Integrated Police Reform Project seeks to raise facilities, change police recruitment method, introduce on-job training, increase forensic capacity including DNA test, launch intelligence-based investigation to detect crimes and ensure job satisfaction of good officers. It also envisages putting the police on a higher moral ground, making the force corruption-free and pro-people. The proposal also plans to improve the force's case management, legal and disciplinary, monitoring and media dealing capacities. If its three-year scheme is properly implemented, the UNDP will extend police reform support for up to another six years. The UNDP proposed to develop the existing police force, giving new assignments to constables. -Daily Star, 14 December

New cader service for land sector

The government is now planning to introduce a new cadre service in the land sector in a bid to facilitate the ongoing land reform process. The plan was unveiled in the fourth meeting of the cabinet committee on land reform. A draft of the proposed amendments of different land laws with 20 recommendations, prepared by a subcommittee led by an additional secretary was placed in the meeting for review. The draft suggested repealing of backdated land laws that have existed for more than a 100 years and replacing them with new ones that are relevant to the present times. It further suggested 'obligatory mutation' of inherited lands under religious laws within 20 years. The draft recommended mandatory declaration by a land-purchaser if he owns at least 60 bighas of land. To check selling of the same land more than once, the draft stressed the registration of baina (earnest money). The draft also recommended faster handover process of deeds from sub-registrars' offices and specifying the duties of sub-registrars. To finalise the recommendations, the committee will hold at least two to three meetings further to review the proposed amendments . The final recommendations will be send to the Cabinet for approval. -New Age, 15 December.

87 states sign UN anti-graft pact

A total of 87 governments had signed the first UN Convention Against Corruption at a UN conference on corruption. The convention must be ratified by a minimum of 30 national assemblies before it can go into effect. It is the first document of its kind that is expected to have a global impact. It also requires signers to beef up and enforce anti-corruption laws, and to include internationally recognized concepts such as money laundering and influence peddling. The convention treats corruption as something more than a simple crime, saying it destabilizes countries, slows development and erodes democratic institutions, such as elections. Signatory governments commit to conducting business transparently, to hire and promote on merit and to streamline bureaucracies. The drafting committee began its work in January 2002 and 128 UN members are collaborating in developing the convention. The United Nations has distributed a manual with 44 legal, economical and political recommendations for countries to fight corruption. - Daily Star, 12 December.

Land survey tribunals to be set up

The government will set up Land Survey Tribunals, which will exclusively deal with civil cases regarding land records and surveys for speedy disposal of those cases. A Bill to this effect has been approved in principal by the Cabinet. The Land Survey Tribunal Bill provides that the government will have the power to set up such number of Land Survey Tribunals across the country as it thinks proper. If the bill is passed all cases regarding land records and surveys will have to be filed with the tribunals. The tribunals will deal exclusively with those cases. They will have the power and jurisdiction of civil courts and will have to follow the Code of Civil Procedure to the extent possible. According to the bill, the government will have to form a Land Survey Appellate Tribunal to deal with any appeal against the verdicts and orders of the tribunals. -Ajker Kagoj, 16 December.

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