SC rightly asserts the independence of EC

But will the EC live up to its obligation?

We welcome the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court's verdict that none of the government organs, including the executive, can interfere with the Election Commission's (EC) functions, as the commission is an independent body as per the constitution. While delivering the verdict, the SC sent out the right message with its observation and from the correct legal position. But this is just one part of the story. In Bangladesh, we have many institutions that have been granted independent power by the constitution. But because of a lack of principled stances, individual courage, and the willingness on the part of some people to aid those in power for self-benefits and self-aggrandisement, they unfortunately do not work. 

And this, ultimately, is the crux of the issue. Therefore, while we greatly appreciate what the SC said while delivering its verdict, the fact of the matter remains that, unless election commissioners use their legal powers with resilience and courage, or if they are intimidated by the prevailing political environment and by politicians, the system will not work in favour of the country or its people. And we can see plenty of evidence of that, just by how the EC has performed in the past. \

The power vested upon the EC is not something new. It had a lot of power before, but that did not pay off in terms of delivering free and fair elections where the people could satisfactorily exercise their right to franchise. In the absence of people getting to choose their own representatives – and, as an extension of that, hold those who claim to represent them to account – we have arrived at a situation where accountability and transparency in governance have gone out the window. Those in power no longer even pretend to value the opinions of the people, nor have any respect towards them. The open display of arrogance, intimidation, and apathy towards the public by those in power – or even those who are connected to it – are direct results of the failure of our so-called "independent" institutions to justly and courageously perform their duties. 

Under such circumstances, we cannot help but wonder if the EC will truly utilise its powers to ensure that the sanctity of voters' rights remains unviolated. 

Having said that, we must also admit that we are enthused by some of the early signs from this EC. But it has to build on what it has done so far and the commissioners have to rightly assert themselves. Undoubtedly, the biggest source of their support are the people who, we have no doubt, will support them should the ECs' aim truly be to deliver free and fair elections, as per their constitutional mandate.