The Awami League candidate Md Shahabuddin was elected unopposed in the recent presidential election. Shahabuddin is a former commissioner of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). According to the ACC Act, no commissioner shall be eligible for appointment to any office of profit in the republic after retirement.
Now after Shahabuddin was elected president, there has been a new discussion on whether the position is “profitable” or not. The constitution does not say anything about whether the post of president is profitable or not. But it has been debated before and in 1996 the High Court ruled in a writ petition that the post of president was “not profitable”.
Awami League nominated former Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed for the president after coming to power in 1996. Challenging the matter, it was said in a case that after retiring from the post of chief justice, one cannot sit in any profitable position in the state.
According to the law, the Election Commission has expressed its opinion on whether the post of president is “profitable” or not. “The post of president is not profitable. This is a constitutional position. In that case, there is no legal obstacle to Shahabuddin’s assumption of the office of president.”
“The court has already given a decision about a retiring chief justice. A former commissioner will be held to the same standard… Md. Shahabuddin’s election to the presidency is valid,” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal said on February 15, 2023.
As per the judgment, the current president-elect, even though he was an ACC commissioner, has no legal bar to assume the presidency. When the Election Commission selects nomination papers of candidates for the post of president, it takes the decision considering the law.
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The law clearly states what is meant by the term “profitable”. In the case of posts of profit, it is said that if the government has more than 50% of the money in an institution engaged in the work of the republic, then the appointment will be called a “post of profit”. The president’s or the prime minister’s posts are constitutional. Since they are constitutional posts, they do not come under the definition of “profitable posts”.
If there is not more than one candidate, and after selecting the nomination papers, if it is found that the nomination papers are correct and valid, then he/she will be declared elected at that time. There is no need to wait for it to be withdrawn. The Awami League nominated Md. Shahabuddin on February 12. The Election Commission (EC) announced him as the next president on February 13, as he was the only candidate for this post. The current president Abdul Hamid’s term expires on April 24.
When the World Bank removed itself from the Padma Bridge project on false allegations of corruption, Md. Shahabuddin – as an ACC commissioner at that time – proved that there was no corruption in the project. Because of his role, the allegations were proven false in Canadian court, and Bangladesh’s image was restored. As ACC Commissioner, Md. Shahabuddin gave courage to PM Sheikh Hasina.
Awami League under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina has been in power for more than 14 consecutive years. Sheikh Hasina’s visionary decision-making was again demonstrated during the nomination of the new president. A president is the symbol of unity and sovereignty of the country. That is why she chose someone eminently qualified for the president’s post.
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After Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina assumed office in 1996, she nominated Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed as president to keep the presidency above party identity. That nomination was an exceptional decision then. The election of a president without party affiliation was widely applauded. Leaders and activists received a message on what will be the form of party nomination. She also gave a message to political parties and civil society who are “concerned” about the elections.
The next national election is a big challenge for the Awami League and the government. By choosing a man experienced in politics, administration and law as the head of state during that election, Sheikh Hasina has once again demonstrated her statesmanship. The message is: she still has more surprises in the bag.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher.