Bill seeks to clip local govt wings
The government yesterday placed a bill in parliament, seeking to bring some major amendments to the upazila parishad law in an apparent effort to consolidate further its authority over the local bodies.
Piloted by the LGRD minister, the proposed legislation gives the government the authority to remove any elected upazila representative and also to appoint an administrator to perform the parishad's functions if all the three posts--a chairman and two vice-chairmen--fall vacant.
Rashed Khan Menon, Workers Party president and chief of the parliamentary standing committee on the education ministry, objected to the bill.
He said the upazila parishad chairmen and vice-chairmen have already been agitating to press home various demands.
Constituted through elections in January 2009, the upazila parishads could not yet start functioning in full swing due to “the government's indifference and the bureaucrats' opposition”.
Besides, lawmakers have been made advisers to the upazila parishads and empowered to interfere in their activities.
“Under the circumstances, I will request not to place the bill and take it back to the cabinet for further discussion,” Menon said.
Referring to Menon's objection, LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said there is still an opportunity to discuss the bill at the parliamentary standing committee.
After he placed the bill, the House sent it to the parliamentary standing committee on the LGRD ministry for scrutiny and asked for a report within a month.
The bill proposes a short-cut procedure to remove an upazila parishad representative.
It says the government can remove a chairman, a vice-chairman or any member of a parishad on grounds of misconduct, refusal to discharge duties, absence for three consecutive meetings and mental and physical inability to perform duties, etc by simply issuing a gazette notification.
The existing law titled “Upazila Parishad Act-1998'” empowers only parishad members to move for removal of an elected upazila official on the above-mentioned grounds.
In case of dismissal, the parishad must convene a special meeting and pass a no-confidence motion with four-fifths majority.
Once the resolution is passed, the government will investigate the allegation that prompted the parishad towards the removal.
If the investigation finds the allegation true, the government may approve the resolution for removal of a chairman, vice-chairman or any member of the parishad, says the existing law.
The proposed legislation also widened the definition of "misconduct". In the existing law misconduct is defined as misuse of power, corruption, nepotism and wilful misrule. With that, the proposed legislation includes taking personal advantage by unfair means, partiality, extortion, theft, robbery, grabbing of property, breach of trust, rape, killing, etc.
Elected representatives, however, will retain their authority to pass no-confidence motion against a parishad member.
But the proposed legislation rewrites the procedure empowering the divisional commissioner to investigate the allegation against a member after receiving a no-confidence motion signed by the majority.
If the divisional commissioner finds the allegation true, he will convene a meeting of the parishad where its members will have to pass the resolution to remove a member with at least four-fifths majority. After the passage, the resolution will be sent to the government and it will decide whether to approve the resolution or not, says the bill.
The bill also proposed upgrading the designation of upazila executive officers from secretary to principal executive officer with more powers.
According to the existing law, an upazila executive officer will be secretary to the parishad and provide secretarial assistance. But the new bill says as a principal executive officer, the upazila executive officer will implement the parishad's decision, maintain financial discipline etc in addition to secretarial assistance.
The bill also proposed to return the Election Commission the authority to fix the time frame for holding upazila elections. The existing law empowers the government to do so.
Besides, the proposed legislation also says war criminals convicted by national or international tribunal will be disqualified to contest the polls.
At yesterday's sitting, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed placed two other bills for amendments to the administrative tribunals act and Bangladesh legal practitioners and bar council order.