EC frustrated by lack of response from law ministry over proposed RPO amendments

The Election Commission has sent out three letters to the law ministry asking for an update since August, but the ministry has yet to respond

Moinul Hoque
Published : 27 Nov 2022, 02:24 PM
Updated : 27 Nov 2022, 02:24 PM

The government has yet to respond to the Election Commission’s proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Order or the RPO, which were sent out in August. The delay has put the electoral body in a dilemma about whether to pursue the amendments at all.

Sources in the EC said they have sent three letters to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in this regard so far while the ministry sources told that they are assessing the proposal.

The commission sent out the proposal on Aug 8 and requested an update from the ministry on Sept 28 and Oct 10.

The third request was sent out recently and the ministry was “kindly been asked for the last time” to inform the commission about the development by mid-December.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal sounded a bit frustrated when he was approached about the matter.

“We have set a deadline this time, so I hope they will respond within the timeframe. My guess is that multiple government agencies are involved in the matter. We, however, can’t put matters on hold for an indefinite period. If we do not get a response this time, we will officially call it off and try other means,” he said while briefing journalists on Sunday.

When the ministry was approached on the same matter, Md Asaduzzaman Nur, the Joint Secretary (Drafting) of the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs division of the ministry, said the minister’s office is working on the assessment of the proposal.

“Usually the drafting division works on such matters as part of their routine work, but the minister’s [Law Minister Anisul Huq] office is working on this one,” he said.

Kazi Habibul, who served as the secretary of the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs division during his civil service career said if the ministry doesn’t respond by mid-December, the CEC will decide what to do next.

The CEC, however, confirmed that they will not ask for any follow-up from the ministry in this regard.

“The government may have its own arguments regarding the proposals. Election Commission depends on the government to move its legislative request to the parliament. So if the government believes, yes, adequate regulations are there to address the amendments we proposed, we will back off. We just want to hear from them,” he said.

Joint Secretary Md Asaduzzaman Nur advised approaching the minister’s office in this regard. attempted to reach Law Minister Anisul Huq multiple times to ask for his comment on the matter, but he is yet to respond.

Sources in the EC said it feels if the requests of the commission are ignored, that is a clear violation of the provisions of the constitution. As the commission won’t be able to execute its constitutional duties without the support of the government, unwanted doubts in the public mind may rise about the EC’s competence, independence and goodwill.

Kabita Khanam, who served as a commissioner in the last commission, told that the EC attempted several times to amend the provisions of RPO during her tenure, but the ministry never cooperated with the matter.

She, however, was tactful while answering whether a distance has been created between the commission and the ministry lately.

“It is difficult to say exactly what happened. Instead of sending letters, we had meetings. The ministry can inform the EC about the current status of the proposals - whether they are in the vetting stage or finalising stage.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher