South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has strongly opposed the proposed changes to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act that make it mandatory for the anti-graft body to take government permission before filing cases against civil servants.

Hinting at a possible outcome of the changes, the minister said only a Pakistani customs official named Zakir was convicted in the subcontinent’s history in a case filed with prior permission of the government.

Muhith was quoted as saying this at a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on law ministry yesterday.

He however said this was his personal opinion on the proposed changes to the ACC law, said a meeting source who quoted the minister.

Muhith’s view came as a strong support to the parliamentary body’s stance against the proposed controversial changes to the ACC law.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, who is in charge of the Cabinet Division in the parliamentary business, placed a bill in parliament on February 28 seeking to bring a number of amendments to the ACC law. The bill includes the provision of prior permission that has drawn widespread flak.

At yesterday’s meeting the agriculture minister however neither defended the proposal nor opposed the finance minister’s view. She clarified her stance against corruption and said the changes should be brought so that the law can be effective and acceptable.

The parliamentary standing committee on law ministry, which has been scrutinising the bill, invited both the ministers to the meeting for their views in this regard.

The finance minister had earlier sent a letter to the parliamentary body expressing his willingness to attend the committee’s meeting. He was also requested to attend the committee’s meeting on May 19. As he was outside Dhaka, he sent a letter again to the committee the same day giving his opinion on the proposed changes, insiders say.

In that letter Muhith said the proposal for taking permission of the government to file cases against government officials by the ACC should be scrapped. “Only small fry will be caught if the proposed change is brought to the law,” he added in the letter.

In response to his application, the parliamentary body yesterday also invited Mohiuddin Khan Alamagir, chief of the parliamentary standing committee on the public accounts, to its meeting to express his opinion on the bill.

Alamgir was the chief of the parliamentary standing committee on the public undertakings that discussed that ACC’s functions during emergency rule.

All signs now indicate that the issue of government permission would not get the parliamentary body’s nod during scrutiny.

“We will discuss more to take a decision in this regard,” Suranjit Sengupta, chief of the parliamentary body, said in a press briefing after the meeting held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.

He said the proposed change is a very important one.

The committee chief added they have also discussed ways to strengthen the ACC by providing it with adequate financial autonomy and administrative power. The anti-graft watchdog needs skilled officials to carry out its functions properly, he observed.

Source: The Daily Star – 27.06.2011