The situation is similar for another Gono Forum MP-elect, Mokabbir Khan, of Sylhet 2
Gono Forum's Sultan Mohammad Monsur has been elected an MP of Moulvibazar 2, using the sheaf of paddy symbol, in the recent 11th general election.
Normally he would take the oath and participate in parliament but since his party is unwilling to enter parliament, there remains a question as to whether he may be prevented from taking the oath.
The answer is that he has the complete liberty to be sworn in as a lawmaker. The situation is similar for another Gono Forum MP-elect, Mokabbir Khan, of Sylhet 2, who won the polls using the rising sun symbol.
Their party, Gono Forum, and the Oikya Front alliance, may not obstruct them from taking their oath of office. However, their MP status may be scrapped if the party expels them and informs the House Speaker about the decision.
Experts on the constitution, officials at the Election Commission and parliament have drawn this conclusion when the issue was raised by this correspondent.
According to the people concerned, though Sultan Monsur used BNP’s symbol to contest the polls, BNP has no say in his decision now. BNP was required to submit a ‘no objection certificate’ to the election commission regarding the matter before the election.
Regardless of the party symbol used to participate in the polls, a person is considered a candidate of the party that nominated the individual. When a candidate wins an election, the election commission publishes a gazette stating that the individual is the party’s candidate. The electoral symbol, used by the aspirant, is not noted in the gazette. This is why only Gono Forum has the legal authority, only once an oath has been taken, to make a decision about its elected lawmakers.
When asked, Election Commissioner (joint secretary) Farhad Ahmed Khan said: “The electoral symbol an aspirant used to contest the polls cannot be taken into consideration. The import thing is the party that he/she got the nomination from. Candidates of alliance parties have the opportunity to use party symbols other than their own. The election commission permits it, but only before the election.”
The other Gono Forum MP-elect, Mokabbir Khan, who contested the polls for Sylhet 2 using his party’s rising sun symbol, is not under the authority of BNP and Oikya Front.
The people concerned have said the two elected MPs can personally take their oath of office even if their party Gono Forum does not support them doing so. The party cannot obstruct their path.
A deputy secretarial level official of the Parliament Secretary, on condition of anonymity, said: “Once the gazette has been published announcing the name of the winner, then the House Speaker has the power to swear the indivdual in at any time that a person wishes to do so. And Article 70 of the constitution—which deals with the cancellation of membership of parliament members who vote against their political party— only works after the swearing-in ceremony. No one is considered a member of the parliament before taking the oath.”
Constitution experts have said even though party cannot stop its candidate from taking the oath, it can take action later when the candidate becomes a lawmaker. The party can expel the candidate and inform the House Speaker of the matter. It will then eventually scrap his/her lawmaker status as per Article 70.
According to the Article 70 of the constitution, a person elected as a member of Parliament in an election in which he was nominated as a candidate by a political party shall vacate his seat if he (a) resigns from that party ; or (b) votes in Parliament against that party; but shall not thereby be disqualified for subsequent election as a member of Parliament.
This provision specifies the conditions—resignation or voting against the party—for a parliament seat to be emptied. It does not elaborate on expulsion from the party. However, constitution experts say ‘voting against the party’ is considered tantamount to expulsion.
A political party must send a letter to the speaker of the parliament if it expels one of its parliamentarians. The party must request the speaker to empty the seat citing that the member had breached Article 70. The Speaker then can send the matter to the election commission for a hearing. However, the accused member can move to the High Court if he/she is not satisfied with the commission’s hearing.
Earlier, Awami League expelled Latif Siddique and sent a letter to the speaker for emptying his seat. The speaker then sent the letter to the election commission. However, Latif Siddique resigned as lawmaker before the commission had made a decision. In this case, Article 67(2) came into effect—based upon Latif’s resignation letter—instead of Article 70.
When asked, Gono Forum Executive President Advocate Subrata Chowdhury said: “We do not understand why the question of oath-taking keeps coming up. We are standing firm on our decision of not taking the oath and not joining the parliament.”
In response to another query, he said: “Mokabbir Khan has said that he will not defy the party’s decision while the other one [Sultan Monsur] said he is not involved with Gono Forum or BNP. Let us see what he decides and then we will make our decision.”
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua said: “According to the existing laws of Bangladesh, it is impossible to obstruct Gono Forum MPs from taking their oath. However, apart from the law, I think they cannot take the oath from a moral point of view.
“Sultan Monsur, the man who created the confusion, was involved in Awami League politics, bought a nomination form from Gono Forum and used the electoral symbol of BNP. Now he is thinking of joining parliament—going outside of Gono Forum and BNP’s decision—and how is that an ethical choice?”
Constitution expert Dr Shadhin Malik said: “We have not seen anything like this before and that is why it needs proper scrutiny and explanation.”
Election Commission Secretary Md Helaluddin Ahmed said: “The commission has published a gazette after the election and we have nothing more to do here. Now it is completely up to the parliament.”
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Choudhury said: “I have an obligation to administer the oath of the elected MPs. It is my constitutional duty. However, I do not want to comment on an internal matter of party.”
Though Gono Forum's two elected MPs have contemplated taking the oath to become members of the parliament, the party and Oikya Front’s senior leadership has categorically rejected the idea, in line with its Oikya Front alliance partner BNP.