2 bills passed to tax speakers, MPs
Parliament yesterday passed two bills scrapping "discriminatory" provisions from two laws that exempted the speaker, deputy speaker and MPs for around 38 years from paying taxes on their remunerations.
Another two bills are likely to be placed in the House today seeking to repeal the similar provision from two other laws that exempt the prime minister, ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers from paying taxes on their salaries, sources in the Parliament Secretariat say.
Amid absence of the BNP-led opposition, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday proposed for passage of the bills to bring changes in the Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Allowances) Order, 1973 and Speaker and Deputy Speaker (Remuneration and Privileges) Act, 1974.
The changes in the two laws concerned took effect from July 1, 2011.
The original law, Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Allowances) Order, 1973 did not exempt MPs from taxes on their remuneration. But the then government in 1974 amended the law by introducing the "discriminatory" provision.
The speaker, deputy speaker, prime minister, ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers were also exempted from paying taxes on their salaries and remunerations with the introduction of a similar legal provision.
Criticism has been raging against the provision, with the demand that such provisions be repealed. But lawmakers did not pay heed to it and instead have been enjoying the "discriminatory" benefits.
Finally, the ruling Awami League in its manifesto amended in July 2009 stated that there would be no law "discriminatory" between MPs and citizens of Bangladesh.
Eventually, the AL-led government moved to scrap the provision, termed "discriminatory" by Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed, who placed the two bills in the House on February 6.
"Usually any Bangladeshi's income above a certain limit is taxable. So there is discrimination between the common people and the MPs regarding taxation," the law minister said in his brief statements tagged with copies of the bills.
The AL-led government however remains silent about the "discriminatory" provision that allows MPs to import duty-free cars.
The original law of 1973 did not contain any such provision. It was introduced on May 24, 1987 during HM Ershad's rule to give MPs undue benefits.
Meanwhile, Environment and Forest Minister Hasan Mahmud placed two bills in parliament seeking to amend the Forest Act, 1927 and to enact new law for preserving trees.
The proposed legislation on tree preservation says the government can declare trees standing in forest or public places to be preserved. It has also a special provision that says opinion of headman will be taken before declaring any trees standing in the areas of ethnic minority people for preservation.
According to the provisions of the bill, no trees grown naturally in the forest land can be cut or removed without the government's permission.
An individual might be punished with a maximum jail term of three months or a fine of Tk 50,000 or both for violation of the proposed legislation.
The other bill seeking to amend the Forest Act, 1927 proposes to increase punishment for offences related to forestry. A provision of the bill also proposes to impose a ban on leasing of forest land to any private company or agency in any form or any purpose including construction of roads, infrastructure, brick fields and establishment of industries.
A provision of the bill says special measures will be taken to protect the traditional and customary rights of the ethnic minority group as recognised in the existing laws.
Both the bills were sent to the parliamentary standing committee on the environment and forest ministry for scrutiny.