Published on 12:00 AM, September 19, 2012

Caretaker Govt System

Full judgment vs short order

2 judges dissent from suggestions for polls time govt with MPs, small cabinet

Former chief justice ABM Khairul Haque's suggestions for a caretaker government comprising lawmakers and a small polls-time cabinet do not conform to the short order delivered in May last year.
Appellate Division Judge Abdul Wahhab Mia said this in his part in the full verdict declaring illegal the caretaker government system.
Justice Wahhab was supported by Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, another judge of the seven-member SC bench that, led by Khairul Haque, delivered the judgment.
The 747-page complete verdict was signed by all seven judges on Sunday night and released shortly afterwards.
In the short order, passed on May 10 last year, the apex court declared illegal and void the constitution's 13th amendment act, which provided for a non-partisan caretaker government to oversee general election.
It stated that the next two general elections might be held under the caretaker government system on the age-old principles of necessity, safety of the people and the state.
The court also observed that parliament might bring necessary amendments by excluding the provisions for making the former chief justice or a judge of the Appellate Division head of the non-party caretaker government.
But in the full verdict, Justice Khairul Haque added two more suggestions regarding polls under the now defunct caretaker government system.
He said that the caretaker government might be composed of only MPs -- elected representatives of the people -- as sovereignty and empowerment of the people, democracy, republicanism and independence of the judiciary constitute the basic structure of the constitution and this verdict placed the highest importance on these factors.
Justice Haque also said the Jatiya Sangsad might be dissolved at an appropriate time, for instance, 42 days before the polls, and a small cabinet could perform the routine work of the state until a new cabinet took over.
About these observations, Justice Wahhab said, “These are not in conformity with the short order.”
Observers say the caretaker government, if formed with MPs, will lose its non-partisan character, as all lawmakers, except for one independent, in the current parliament belong to political parties.
They say Justice Khairul Haque's suggestions for a small cabinet and dissolution of parliament will also give birth to a dilemma in that when parliament is dissolved, those in the polls-time cabinet will no longer remain elected representatives. They will become unelected individuals just like the now-defunct caretaker government's chief adviser and advisers.
Taking advantage of the short order, the government in June last year abolished the caretaker government system by amending the constitution.