Prior permission for filing corruption cases against govt. officials is unconstitutional: Bangladesh High Court

The High Court bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain provided a landmark verdict on January 30, 2014 which declared a recently introduced provision of the Anti-Corruption Commission law as unconstitutional and void. The challenged section 32(a) of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004 as amended by the ACC (Amendment) Act 2013 states that the commission cannot sue any government servants, judges and magistrates for corruption without prior approval of the Government. The Parliament on November 10 last year passed the bill amending the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004 to introduce this controversial provision which was signed by the president on November 20th.  This provision faced strong criticisms and disapproval from the general mass, the commission and even within the government.

Following a writ, the HC found the provision inconsistent with people’s fundamental rights, equality before law and right to protection of law guaranteed by the constitution.  Article 27 of the Constitution ensures equality before law and right to protection of law of every citizen. Since the provision gives protection to a certain section of people, the provision is discriminatory : Justice ABM Altaf Hossain in the verdict. Moreover, Article 26 (2) of the Constitution asserts that the State shall not make any law inconsistent with any provisions on fundamental rights and any law so made shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.

Section 24 of the 2004 Act clearly affirms the independence of the commission and section 20(1) asserts the investigative power of the commission prevails over any procedures by any provisions of the Criminal Procedures. The contested provision curtailed the commissions’ authority to file graft cases against the government officials independently.

By the verdict, the Commission retained its power to anyone with sufficient evidence and the Commission chief Badiuzzaman well appreciated the verdict and said, “We were facing difficulties in carrying out our duties. Now it will make our work easy. If government appeals [against the verdict] we will continue our fight because we have some good arguments.”

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