The Cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the 'Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner Appointment Act, 2022' in order to have a law in this regard as per the Constitution.

The approval came from the Cabinet meeting held at the Cabinet Room of the Jatiya Sangsad with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

"Today, the final approval was given to a draft law over the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners," said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam while briefing reporters at the Bangladesh Secretariat after the meeting.

As per the proposed law, a search committee will be formed taking approval from the President over the constitution of the Election Commission, he said.

"The search committee will recommend the names of suitable candidates before the President to appoint the CEC and other election commissioners," he said.

The move came just one month before the expiry of five-year tenure of incumbent Election Commission, led by CEC KM Nurul Huda, as it is going to fulfill its five years in office in mid-February.

Talking about the qualification of CEC and election commissioners, the Cabinet Secretary said they must be Bangladeshi citizens with minimum 50 years of old, and have at least 20 years of work experience in important government, semi-government, private or judicial posts.

He said if a person is declared 'insane' by any court; has not been released from the jail after being declared as 'bankruptcy'; acquires the citizenship of or affirms the allegiance to, a foreign country surrendering Bangladeshi citizenship; has been convicted for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced to at least two-year imprisonment; convicted by international crime tribunal; and is disqualified for such posts by or under any law, he or she would not be eligible for the post of CEC and election commissioners.

Describing the last disqualification, he said if a person once held the post of CEC or the Chief Justice, he or she would not be eligible for the post of the CEC. But if a person held the post of election commissioner, he or she might be considered for appointment to the CEC.

In order to give legal protection to the constitution of previous election commissions, it would be considered that these were made under this law, he said.

Anwarul Islam hoped that it would not take much time to make the proposed law into an act.

Explaining further about the search committee, he said a justice of the Appellate Division, nominated by the Chief Justice, will be the head of the six-member committee.

The five other members will be a justice of the High Court Division nominated by the Chief Justice, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chairman of the Bangladesh Public Service Commission, two other personalities nominated by the President.

Though the Constitution suggests the appointment of the CEC and other election commissioners under a law, the law was not formulated in the past.

The Article 118 (1) of the Constitution states, "There shall be an Election Commission for Bangladesh consisting of 1[the Chief Election Commissioner and not more than four Election Commissioners] and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (if any) shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf, be made by the President."

In the past, the President appointed the CEC and commissioners in absence of the law.

The last two election commissions, headed by Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed and KM Nurul Huda, were constituted through search committees formed by the President following his dialogues with political parties.

The President picked the CEC and four election commissioners in 2012 and 2017 from the names suggested by the search committee.

This time, President Abdul Hamid also started a dialogue with registered political parties on December 20 last to discuss the issues related to the constitution of the Election Commission ahead of the 12th general election to be held at the end of 2023 or the early 2024.

Besides, the Cabinet cleared the drafts of three laws -- Jatiya Muktijoddha Council Act, 2022, Bangladesh Gas, Oil and Mineral Corporation Act, 2022 and Anti-Inequality Act, 2022 (Boishomya Birodhi Aiyen) - as well as the draft of National Salt Policy, 2022.

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