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Monday, October 13, 2014, Ashwin 28, 1421, Zilhajj 17, 1435 Hijr

A Grey Area In Constitution
Latif to remain or not to remain MP
Staff Correspondent
Publish Date : 2014-10-13,  Publish Time : 00:00,  View Count : 33
Legal experts are divided in their opinion on whether Latif Siddique can continue as a member of parliament if the ruling Awami League expels him from the party since there is no clear-cut provision.
Some experts think he shall remain a lawmaker until he resigns from the party or parliament while others opine the controversial personality shall lose his MP post since he was elected as a party candidate.
Latif remains a lawmaker if Awami League only relieves him from the party Presidium.
Article 70 of the Constitution says, "A person elected as a member of Parliament at an election at 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."
The provision does not say explicitly about expulsion. But when two BNP lawmakers joined the Awami League-led government in February 1998, BNP asked the Speaker to vacate their posts opining that their activities should be deemed to be resignation from the party.
However, the Speaker insisted that their posts were valid which prompted the BNP to move the court. On July 29, 1999 the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mustafa Kamal, in its judgment, ruled that the Speaker has no authority to take any decision on MP posts of Hasibur Rahman Shawpon and Dr Md Alauddin, two BNP lawmakers rather the Speaker is bound by law to refer the dispute to the Election Commission, the only body which is empowered under Article 64(4) to take the final decision.    
Article 66(4) says, "If any dispute arises as to whether a Member of Parliament should vacate his seat pursuant to Article 70, the dispute shall be referred to the Election Commission to hear and determine it and the decision of the Commission on such reference shall be final."
Later, the EC vacated the seats of the two BNP lawmakers saying that joining the ministry of the ruling party constituted resignation from the BNP, eminent constitutional expert Mahmudul Islam wrote in his authoritative book "Constitutional Law of Bangladesh."
Referring to the case of Shawpon and Alauddin, BNP standing committee member MK Anwar told The Daily Observer that Latif would lose his MP post. Echoing the view, BNP Human Rights Affairs Secretary Nasir Uddin Ahmed Ashim, also a Supreme Court lawyer, added that the two defectors were expelled from the party.
Bangladesh Institute of Constitutional Studies Director Arif Khan told this correspondent, "As per the Constitution Latif Siddique's MP post shall be vacated if he is expelled since he loses the party's primary membership, a major component of becoming a lawmaker."  Echoing the opinion, Barrister Abdul Halim, who authored a popular book on Constitutional law, added, "Though the Constitution does not categorically say anything in this regard, if we interpret the Constitution it can be said he is not entitled to the MP post if expelled."
Awami League Advisory Council Member Suranjit Sen Gupta said if Latif is expelled, he becomes an independent lawmaker. On the other hand, if he is dropped from the presidium only, he remains party lawmaker.
Former Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed told this correspondent that Latif would not lose MP post as he has not submitted a resignation letter to the party. Expulsion does not fall in the category of resignation from the party stipulated in Article 70, he said.
In November 2005, BNP expelled its lawmaker Abu Hena. But he did not lose MP post.
"Abu Hena is now an independent lawmaker. There is no possibility of losing his parliament membership as he did not violate party decision or cast vote against the party," Speaker Jamiruddin Sircar at that time told journalists at his office.  
Prof Dr Shah Alam told The Daily Observer that Latif remains lawmaker even if he is expelled from the Awami League as he is a representative of the people. Article 70 refers to floor-crossing only.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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