President Abdul Hamid Wednesday formed a six-member search committee headed by Appellate Division Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain to reconstitute the Election Commission.
The other members of the committee are - Justice Obaidul Hassan, Public Service Commission Chairman Muhammed Sadique, Dhaka University Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam, Comptroller and Auditor General Masud Ahmed and Chittagong University Pro-Vice Chancellor Shirin Akhter, according to a gazette notification from the Cabinet Division.
Apart from the inclusion of the two professors, this committee follows the same structure as the last one which formed the EC.
The committee will have to send their recommendations for the chief election commissioner and other commissioners to the president within the next 10 working days, the gazette reads.
The new Election Commission will organise the national polls in 2019.
The EC will likely be reconstituted by the next month as the tenures of the incumbent commissioners including the chief election commissioner will expire halfway through February.
President Hamid held talks with 31 political parties throughout December and January over the EC reconstitution before making his recommendations.
Yesterday morning he sent a letter to the Cabinet Division outlining his proposal for the committee. The letter included the names of four members and instructions to pick a Supreme Court justice and a High Court justice.
After Bangabhaban issued the letter, Law Minister Anisul Huq and Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam met with Chief Justice SK Sinha, who recommended the two justices.
Later the Cabinet Division made a summary and sent it to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Upon her approval, the list was again forwarded to Cabinet Division and published as a gazette.
According to the constitution, the president has the authority to appoint the chief election commissioner and other commissioners as per suggestion of the prime minister.
According to Article 118(1) of the constitution, the president formally constitutes the Election Commission.
But Article 48(3) says: “In the exercise of all his functions, save only that of appointing the prime minister pursuant to clause (3) of article 56 and the chief justice pursuant to clause (1) of article 95, the president shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.”
Although twenty parties had proposed enactment of a law to appoint the EC, the president avoided this because of lack of time, officials said.
No such law has been in place since the adoption of the constitution in 1972.
In 2012, late president Zillur Rahman appointed incumbent CEC Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad and election commissioners through a search committee after holding a meeting with country's 23 registered political parties.
During the meetings, five of them proposed forming a search committee, while four suggested enacting a law that could be followed for such appointments.
Later, President Zillur Rahman, on January 22, 2012, formed a four member search committee headed by Appellate Division judge Mahmud Hossain. The other members of the committee were Justice Nuruzzaman, then Public Service Commission chairman ATM Ahmedul Haque Chowdhury, and the then comptroller and auditor general Ahmed Ataul Hakim.
The committee invited names from the political parties for the chief election commissioner and other commissioners. After screening, the committee shortlisted 10 people.
Later, president Zillur Rahman formed a new five-member Election Commission with Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad as the Chief Election Commissioner. Four other election commissioners were former additional secretary Mohammad Abu Hafiz, former joint secretary Mohammad Abdul Mobarrak, Brig Gen (retd) Mohammad Zabed Ali, and former district and session judge Mohammad Shahnewaz.
Tenure of CEC Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad and the other commissioners Mohammad Abdul Mobarak, Mohammad Abu Hafiz and Md Zabed Ali will end on February 8 while another commissioner Md Shah Nawaz would serve out his tenure on February 14.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune after the announcement of their names, two members for the search committee expressed their commitment to finding neutral and capable candidates for the next EC.
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of Bangladesh Masud Ahmed said he had been informed that he was chosen for the search committee to form EC.
“Firstly, we will call an introductory meeting among the members. Later we will make a list of persons who have honesty, capability and acceptance in the society,” he said.
“We also weigh the proposed names by their professional and personal lives,” he said. He added that he had plans to suggest more persons than the required number so that the authorities have more flexibility of choice.
Dr Shirin Akhter, pro-vice-chancellor of Chittagong University, said: “We will sit together as ordered by president and we will try to form an acceptable Election Commission under which a free and fair election can be held. We want everyone’s help and participation.”
Public Service Commission Chairman Mohammed Sadique told the Dhaka Tribune he did not know anything about the matter as no government notification had reached his hands yet.
“I cannot say anything about the matter. The committee chief is the spokesperson on the activities of the committee,” he also said.
The chief of the committee Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, secretary Justice Obaidul Hassan and Syed Manzoorul Islam could not be reached immediately for comments.