Truth Commission rolls into action Sunday
The Truth and Accountability Commission (Tac) starts functioning on Sunday, Tac Chairman Justice Habibur Rahman Khan confirmed yesterday.
Under the provisions of the Tac, corrupt individuals will be allowed to plead for mercy after voluntarily admitting their past corruption and depositing their ill-gotten wealth to the state exchequer.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) at a routine press briefing yesterday said it would consider sending its cases to the Tac if an accused is deemed eligible to apply under the conditions set by the Tac.
Earlier on Wednesday, the president appointed Justice Khan, a retired High Court judge, as the chairman of the Tac for a five-month term.
The president also appointed two members to the commission for the same duration. The members are Asif Ali, a former comptroller and auditor general, and Major Gen (retd) Manzur Rashid Khan.
The government has already posted 26 officials and employees to the commission to work on deputation.
The Tac will operate for five months under the Voluntary Disclosure of Information Ordinance 2008, promulgated on June 5 and later amended on July 20.
The commission is likely to make public notifications on Monday in the media including newspapers, announcing in detail the eligibility of an individual for pleading for mercy through the Tac as well as the objectives and jurisdictions of the Tac.
After the notification, people involved in corruption in the past will be able to admit their crime and plead for mercy by applying to the commission in a prescribed form, disclosing detailed relevant information including his/ her moveable and immovable properties.
According to the ordinance, the government, in consultation with the Tac, will formulate rules for the commission. Until necessary rules are formulated, the Tac will run at the discretion of its chairman following the commission's approval.
In an interview with The Daily Star yesterday, Tac chief Justice Khan said, "Although I wanted to start working today, I could not do so as I just got the appointment letter today."
The activities of the Tac will be conducted from its Hare Road offices set up in three government-owned houses named Totinee, Tonmoy and Uttarayan, he added.
Seeking all-out cooperation from all, the Tac chief said, "It's absolutely a new experience for me. As you know, the concept is completely new in Bangladesh."
The commission will hold its first ever meeting with its officials and employees on Sunday and discuss its work plan.
Tac Chairman Justice Khan will be entitled to the same salary, allowances and other benefits enjoyed by a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, said a notification of the law ministry yesterday.
The two Tac members, Asif Ali and Manzur Rashid Khan, will receive the same salary, allowances and other benefits enjoyed by a judge of the High Court division.
Earlier this year on May 25, the council of advisers approved the Voluntary Disclosure of Information Ordinance 2008, paving the way for forming the three-member commission.
To reduce workload of the commission and to cover the entire country, six sub-commissions might be created. Although the commission will last for only five months, it will continue its functions until disposal of the proceedings initiated during its term.
The caretaker government that launched a massive crackdown on corruptionists after taking over in January last year planned the formation of the Tac with an aim to curb corruption and ease backlog of graft cases through quick adjudication.
Commenting on the method of transferring ACC cases to the Tac, ACC Director General (admin) Col Hanif Iqbal during the routine press briefing at the ACC headquarters said, "We will consider it if any accused in ACC case applies to the ACC for going before the Tac. However, the accused must be eligible to apply under the conditions set by the Tac."
For consideration, the accused has to apply to the ACC and the ACC will have the discretion on whether the case can be transferred to the Tac, he said adding, "We do not have any provision in our act to consider such an issue under such condition, but we will be obliged to do so in agreement with the spirit of the Tac law. And it would not violate any law as the Tac law is also formulated by the government."
According to the Tac, the ACC can forward its cases to the commission for consideration if those cases fulfil the criteria set by the Tac.
Regarding suspected corruptionists running in elections, the ACC said if Election Commission (EC) wants, the ACC would conduct investigations against graft suspects contesting city corporation and municipality polls.