Retd Public Servants: They wanted impunity, but cabinet said no
As recently as in 2018, the Sarkari Chakori Ain was formulated, giving public servants an array of benefits.
But even before three years have passed, the public administration ministry yesterday placed a proposal before the cabinet, seeking impunity for retired public servants, who had been convicted of committing serious crimes or ethical turpitude.
The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, however, rejected the proposal placed by KM Ali Azam, senior secretary of the ministry, sources said.
According to section 51 (4) of the 2018 law, any retired civil servant convicted of a serious crime can currently be stripped of partial or all post-retirement benefits, including pension.
The confiscation of these benefits can be both temporary and permanent, as per the law. The section also adds that prior to this step, the retired government servant must be ordered to show cause and will be given adequate time to respond.
It is precisely this legal provision that the public administration ministry sought to do away with in the proposal placed before the cabinet meeting.
"The public administration ministry proposed the annulment of the section but the cabinet didn't agree," Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam said at a briefing after the meeting.
"It [the section] remains unchanged."
As it is, the 2018 law gives civil servants who committed crimes plenty of leeway -- the bill makes it mandatory for the Anti-Corruption Commission to take permission from the appropriate authorities before arresting any government official on charges related to their job.
Section 41(1) of the law states that public servants cannot be arrested until a court frames charges against them. No prior permission is needed in that case.
But before charges are framed, any government official can only be arrested after getting permission from the government or hiring authorities defined in any other existing law.
This section directly contradicts the constitution, which states that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law.
In addition, the 2018 law also allows government servants to be convicted for less than a year, with little more than a slap on the wrist.
According to the law's section 42, such public servants are to be penalised with words of denunciation, temporary demotion or temporarily halting raises. The job however remains intact.
This proves to be a problem when the courts summon government servants, and they fail or refuse to show up.
The penalty for incurring the contempt of court, in practice, is six months. Since government employees are protected by the 2018 law's provision on sentences that are less than a year, they can get away with flouting the court.
The High Court, however, on September 26, 2013, scrapped the contempt of court law that had a provision of six months' simple imprisonment or a fine of Tk 2,000 as maximum punishment.
The draft of the 2018 law had initially made it mandatory for government employees to give an exam before every promotion but by the time the bill was finalised, the provision was scrapped.